Monday, March 31, 2014

A year ago today beautiful lives were lost. I won't get into the details but I will ask a favor of all of you. I am sure you know a mom somewhere in your life. Your own, your wife, sister, friend, random coworker? It could be any mom. Maybe you noticed her smile has been a bit off or seemed almost forced lately. Maybe you used to notice her all of the time but she sort of fell off the grid for a while and you never really thought twice about it. Maybe you can just tell she has been bravely treading water and holding her own and doing an amazing job for however long now. Whatever the situation...reach out to a mom today. Give her a friendly call. Ask if there is anything she needs or that you could do for her. Help her bag her groceries. Send her flowers with a note that says what a great job she is doing or that she's beautiful and appreciated. Anything...do anything to make a moms day just a little better or easier or happier in the next few days. And when you do it, please take a moment to remember Steph. http://ginnylouden.blogspot.com/2013/04/desperations-of-wounded-mother.html

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Oh boy! I am super excited. I submitted my name for the Mom Trusted Kids Craft Blogger Challenge and was lucky enough to be selected to participate for December. I love crafts and have been meaning to incorporate more into Daphne's routine. This little set up made it pretty easy. So, here's the scoop...

MomTrusted.com has links and ideas for hundreds of kids activities. Each month they send some surprise supplies to mommy bloggers and we are supposed to come up with a fun craft for kids to do using these supplies and include pictures and instructions. And that is just what I did. Yeah!

I was sent an envelope full of multi colored feathers, pipe cleaners and small tissue paper squares. I decided, since it is December and all, that Daphne and I should make a Festive Holiday Tree. A fun and colorful project for a month full of holidays (and Birthdays in my home). It turned out to be a great centerpiece that she is proud of.



Supplies:

feathers
pipe cleaners
tissue paper squares
white glue
paper plates
glitter
construction paper
crayons
cotton balls
scissors


Color the plate and make a circle out of a pipe cleaner.


Twist 6 to 8 pipe cleaners around the original circle. Daphne said it looks like the Sun.


Carefully bend the pipe cleaners up and then twist them together at the tip top. Take a moment to gently bend them into a nice full cone shape and glue the original circle down to the center of your colored paper plate.


Prepare a second paper plate with a nice big glob of glue and another pile of glitter. We love glitter!



Dip the tips of each feather in glue.


And then dip it in glitter, of course.


They will look like this. Ooh, ahh, pretty.



Then, dip the quill of each feather in glue and place it towards the bottom of the "tree" on a pipe cleaner, glitter tips facing down. We started with the larger feathers on the bottom and worked our way up to the top of the "tree" with the smaller feathers.


Keep placing feathers all the way around, working your way towards the top in layers.


After all of the feathers are glued on, you can begin decorating the plate. We used the tissue paper squares and cotton balls to make it look like snowy grass under the "tree". Using the flat end of a crayon or eraser end of a pencil, wrap one square of tissue paper around it and pinch it in place with your fingers.


Dip the tissue squares in glue and place them all around the base of the "tree". Press down gently on the crayon or pencil to secure each tissue square and then slide the crayon up and out of the tissue. We used a little dab of glue for the cotton balls, too.


Cut a star shape out of construction paper and glue it to the top of your tree, right onto the twisted pipe cleaners. Voila! A fun and colorful Festive Holiday Tree. It turned out just like I had pictured in my head. I only used 6 pipe cleaners for the body of the tree. Next time I would use 8 pipe cleaners so that the base of the tree would be a little more full with feathers. I can see through spots at the bottom of ours. Other than that, I am pleased with this project. Daphne loves it, too. She especially loved the dipping things in glitter part.

If you try it out, I would love to hear how it turns out or even see a picture. Hope you and yours have an amazing New Year! Peace and Love.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oops. Really? A whole month (just over, actually, but who's counting?) has passed since my last post. This troubles me a bit. Only because writing is one of my favorite things to do now and I obviously do not get enough time to do it. I haven't been slacking off or anything. I'm sure that is what you are all thinking...unless, of course, you know me and that I have five kids and how finding that "me time" can be very tricky. Very tricky, indeed.

A couple posts ago I had a...what should I call it...a "mini meltdown", perhaps? I have since deleted that post for reasons that are my own, although I saved a copy and will re-post it again someday when the time is right. I am not ashamed of my feelings or my words. I own them. I am human. I do, however, need to protect myself sometimes...for now.

The reason I bring up the "meltdown" is because I have put a lot of changes into motion since that day. I realized, after putting my broken self in black and white for the world to see, that I needed to deal with some things in my life. I needed to make changes, make decisions, have conversations and figure out what exactly I want from this new strange life. Fifteen months ago I was a full time working mother of three. Overnight I became a stay at home mother of five. Before the twins I was focused, organized, busy and determined...in a good way. Since the twins were born I have been scatter-brained, indecisive and a little lost. I have also been extremely happy, though. I love being a mom so very much. I've said it before and I will say it again: motherhood is my favorite. Picture me saying it like Will Ferrell's character in Elf when he says, "I just like to smile. Smiling's my favorite."


"I just like to be a mom. Being a mom's my favorite." But at the same time, I felt the real me slowly slipping away. I have had moments where I felt like I might drown. I was giving up so much and taking on way too much, all at the same time. I had to prioritize. That is where I have been for the last month or so. I feel much better. I have refreshed optimism (with a healthy side dish of realistic goals and expectations.)

Image from: http://www.srednja.hr/Novosti/Svijet/Otkriveno-koji-tip-ljudi-ima-najvise-sanse-za-uspjeh-i-srecu

What specifically have I changed? The most important thing I have done since the "meltdown" is to have a heart-to-heart talk with my beloved husband. I will begin by saying that I try very hard to leave my marital issues out of this blog out of deep respect for his privacy. I am the one who chose to put my life in print, not him. I must also clarify that when I say "marital issues", we have very few negative issues. He is an amazing man and my perfect match in every way possible. I love him unconditionally and trust him explicitly and I know, without a doubt, that he feels the same way about me. How could we possibly go wrong with a marriage like that, right?

One thing. Since the twins were born, bless their little hearts, we have probably experienced the hardest thing that we have ever had to deal with as a couple. Five kids is no cake walk. And after a little while, instead of leaning on each other as we should have, we sort of both retreated to our own corners, in our own ways, to lick our wounds like beat down dogs and suffer alone in silence. So silly. We should know better. So, we spoke our minds, we shed our tears and we made some changes that have already begun to work their magic. All is well and we are the stronger for it, both as a couple and as a family. Yeah us!

Where are my priorities? I am only taking on one volunteer project for the school this year. I am the Scholastic Book Fair Chair for my son's middle school. This is something that we can do together; bonding with each other while doing something important at the same time. Win-win.

Instead of quiting The Mommies Network, I took a leave of absence from my volunteer posts. After speaking with the founder of the organization, this seemed like the right choice. After the holidays are over, I will continue as chapter manager for MinneapolisMommies but I have chosen to step down as their Blended Families Forum Moderator. This will allow me to focus on the part that is most important to me, which is building a local community of mothers who can get together, support each other and go out and have a good time every once in a while. If I need these things, there have to be a whole lot of other moms that do to.

I am making an effort to play my guitar more. I am even trying to write a song or two and have started to get callouses on the tips of my left fingers again, which I haven't had since high school. I am putting no pressure on myself and it feels good. Whatever happens, happens. I am not working out, trying to get the perfect body back. I probably won't get to fulfill a long time dream to be in a musical this summer. I am not going to be in a pageant and represent my town. There are so many things that I want(ed) to do, but I am learning to accept the fact that not all of these wishes will turn out to be. I am forcing myself to be much more choosy in my efforts. This will help me not feel let down or broken hearted. I don't want to be the girl that is all talk with no follow through. I am now trying to allow myself to really focus on the most important things. This will take some discipline.

I just celebrated my birthday. I am now 36. I am 100% okay with this. I embrace my aging. Although, a thought did cross my mind this week. I had a moment where I was sad because I realized how old I was and that I had nothing to show for it. No career, no degree. I had not accomplished a single dream that I had for myself from when I was a kid. I am not even remotely close to where I thought I would be. This moment of sadness was brief. Partly because many of those dreams were far fetched and a tiny bit unrealistic for regular people. But mostly, the sadness was brief because I thought to myself, "Ginny, don't be an idiot. Look at your life." I have a lot to show. I have an adoring husband and five of the best kids a mom could ask for. I have a house and two cars, health insurance, savings and investments. I have a huge family full of love and support for each other. I am healthy and alive. I get to be a stay at home mom! I have food in the refrigerator and clothes on my back. Not everyone can say all of these things. I am not saying it to brag or to pat myself on the back. I am saying it for perspective. I am saying it to remind myself that I have no reason to feel bad about what I have or have not done with my life.

I am going to digress for a moment...but when the hell did we become grown-ups? Seriously. Over the last year there has been so much change and loss and pain and happiness. I have lost old friends and acquaintances to cancer, suicide and death by natural or unexplained causes. People in my world have experienced abuse and divorce, marriages, births and miscarriages, custody battles and lawyer bills. New homes have been purchased and old homes have been lost or sold. There have been home improvements, both planned and not so planned. (Don't even get me started on my damn boiler heat issue) Jobs have come and gone. Life is in constant motion all around us and it can knock us on our asses at times by the pure heaviness of it all. I was out with an old girlfriend a few weeks ago and we were in total disbelief about all of the real "grown-up shit" that has unfolded itself before us, and people we know, from all possible angles. One day you are twenty years old and then you blink and suddenly you are an adult and real life just sort of happened all around you. Again, perspective. I really need to complain a lot less.

So, what do I want? I want to continue being a stay at home mom. I want to be more patient. I want to be a better wife and mother. I want to write more. I want to volunteer. And I have decided to go back to school and finish my two year Associates degree that I started back in 2001. I will officially be a full time student, entirely online, in January. This is my list to focus on. These are the things I have decided are most important to me. These are the things that made the cut. This is how I move from sink to swim. Wish me luck.





Tuesday, October 29, 2013


On Sunday I hosted the first Crazy Cousin Costume Contest & Halloween Party for my children, nieces and nephews. It was supposed to be for thirteen kids total but life happens and it ended up being for eight kids. I was a little bummed out about this at first but I was also very tired from partying late the night before, so it wasn't really such a bad thing. With the help of Evite.com, Pinterest (my new friend) and a family potluck style dinner, the party was a success. We had a blast but I am, admittedly, a little glad to have it behind me. This was just the beginning of the next couple months worth of holidays, gatherings and all the other typical end of year mayhem and shenanigans. One down, many more to go.

This party was for the kiddos using all of the money that they earned at their own lemonade stand in my front yard last July. (To read about that day, click here) The money was used for treats, prizes, decorations and games. They had all been looking forward to it for months. That is why it was a little sad that four of the nephews couldn't attend due to cold and flu season. It happens though and I was able to drive around yesterday and drop off all of their goodies and prizes. They had earned them, literally. I hope it helped cheer them up a bit.

I know that I have mentioned Evite.com before but I am going to do it again, anyway. I love this site! They just make it so easy and I need more easy in my life. Getting to the post office can be most difficult now days. Not to mention how many adorable invitation templates they have to choose from. Here is the invitation that I used this time.



Thanks to Pinterest (Which I only recently discovered...I'm a little behind, I know.) there was tons of ideas to choose from. I created a board dedicated to this party and was able to pick, choose and modify ideas to fit the kids ages and our budget. To see my board click here. I didn't use all of the ideas but there was definitely a lot of inspiration to be had. As guests RSVP'd I emailed pictures of Halloween themed party food for families to make and bring to the potluck. It was quite a handy tool. Here are some pictures of food that everyone brought.

Vegetable Tray Skeleton

Banana Chocolate Chip Ghosts, Clementine & Grape Pumpkins and Mummy Juice Boxes
Fruit and Veggies. Fun and healthy. Inexpensive and easy ways to make a fun kids party. I also made Worm Sandwiches but served the sauce options on the side to help please the kids better. I knew they would not all be crazy about barbecue sauce. I didn't get a picture of mine but here is where I got the idea.

Sliced hot dogs on a bun. How easy! Image from Pinterest
My sister-in-law made awesome cupcakes, too. Eyeballs!

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. Yum!
I also used some of the ideas from Pinterest for our Halloween games. We did the Dum Dum suckers stuck in a pumpkin. One sucker had a colored end for the prize. Plus the kids were able to keep all of the suckers they pulled out. We also did the toilet paper ghost bowling game. The older kids had less rolls of the ball to make it more fair for the younger children. Here are pictures of where I got the ideas.

Image from Pinterest

Image from Pinterest
We also played Pin the Nose on the Ghost using a simple 97 cent door cover and stickers. And then we played a toilet paper mummy making race. Super simple and cheap. I was able to use the toilet paper for two different games.



A little blurry because he was trying to walk. Ha ha!
We ended the party with the much anticipated costume contest. Since some of my nephews could not attend, I decided to have my brother take pictures of his three kids in costume and email them to me so that they could still be included in the contest. I'm glad I did because one of them actually won one of the prizes. We had four winners: Most Original, Funniest, Scariest and Best Costume. Everyone at the party was able to vote and no one was allowed to vote for themselves. It was pretty fun and everyone received votes. Here are pictures of the winners.

Most Original: Homemade Princess Dress

Funniest: Reaper with a Clown Wig

Scariest: Werewolf

Best Costume: Super Girl!
My daughter happened to win best costume. This was bittersweet. We announced the winners in the order I placed the pictures here. So, as soon as I announced the first winner, my sweet niece, my daughter started to bawl loudly because she didn't win. Ugh! Can you say "poor sport." I, of course, knew that she had won a prize at this time but my initial reaction, in my own head, was that I should not let her get a prize for putting on such an awful display. That was only a fleeting thought because I realized that she was on total overload. It was an hour or so from her bed time and she had been running around all day eating sugary treats and the like. I suppose a meltdown was to be expected. My husband and I did have a good talk with her last night, after a good nights sleep. Hopefully it made an impression. When we finally got to her name and announced her as the winner she immediately stood up with a jaw-dropped-smile and accepted her trophy with gusto, The Golden Owl.


She made up a song about it last night while banging away on the piano (no, she does not know how to play the piano) and kept singing loudly, "I won a trophy!" over and over. My husband and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads with a mix between amusement and concern. I said to him later, "Yup. That will be our daughter. Winning a Grammy someday and being the girl in poor taste who writes a very gloating song about it." We have a little work to do. Ha!

Because all of the kids were so darn cute, here are the rest of them in their costumes.

Creepy Jack-o-lantern Man


Skeleton Reaper

Cat Girl

Ninja hanging out with Grandma

Alien Invader

Spider Man!

Twin & Bones

Twin & Bones
Bunny Rabbit

Like I said...It was a success. I think they all enjoyed themselves. I was dead tired, though. My husband and I had attended a party at a friend's house the night before, on Saturday night. I was designated driver that night. (Next weekend is my turn to drink. Woo hoo!) We got home just before 3:30 AM and the second I stepped foot on the carpet, both babies woke up...of course. So, I had been up all night and then up most of the day cooking food and getting ready. Ah well. All worth it in the end. After everyone was gone and my three little ones were in bed, I sat back in the recliner with a crisp cider beer and fell asleep while watching The Walking Dead. Not a bad night, I must say.

** Also, I am reviewing a delicious popcorn treat that I received in order to taste test it and one lucky reader will win some and a nice new popcorn bowl! Click here to read the review and enter for your chance to win. Contest ends at midnight CST 11/6/2013. Thanks for reading. **

Snickerdoodle Popcorn. What!?!? Stay tuned.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Is a little scary. I am including a video of my attempt today at practicing a song on my guitar while singing. This is a big step for me. Put me in a room with hundreds or thousands of strangers and I can sing without hesitation. Put me in a room, one on one, with my husband or someone else who's opinion of me that I really care about...and I clam up. Silly, I know. One of my many faults that I am slowly working on. This post is one of my baby steps at fixing this.

Music used to be a huge part of my life. There was a time, long ago, where all I pictured for my future was to be a professional musician. Then, life happened and this is one of my Tangerine Dreams that got pushed to the side. For the past many years, a girls night out to a bar for karaoke was one of my only singing outlets. Very fun but definitely not the same thing. I have also had an open invitation to play with my husband and his band(s) over the years. It is hard though, with kids, to find the time and the energy to add even just one more thing, sometimes. To justify paying a sitter so I can go along or even feeling motivated to be creative after all the kids are tucked in and asleep and a long day is behind me. Some think these are silly or even stupid excuses and they are entitled to their opinions. As am I.

After Christmas last year, my husband saw me goofing off on my computer, looking at Ovation acoustic guitars. My personal favorites. When I was ten years old and began taking guitar lessons for the first time, I used my Dad's Ovation to play on until I received my own brand new guitar for Christmas when I was eleven. A Fender Strat, white, I still have it. I love the feel of an Ovation and it also has great memories for me, very nostalgic. I remember, as a small girl, sitting next to my Dad and listening to him play for hours. That is one of my happy places in this life. So, when I started thinking about getting a new guitar, Ovation is where I gravitated to, my comfort zone. As soon as my husband saw what I was doing, he insisted that I get one. I already had my favorite picked out, but I was truly just wishing and window shop drooling for fun. I didn't really think I would get one. His enthusiasm was contagious and we bought it online that night. Her name is "Veda" (the guitar). This is a My Girl movie reference, in case you were wondering, and it just seemed fitting to me.


Isn't she beautiful? And there is Zayne, on my lap, because he wouldn't leave me alone long enough to try her out. Kinda cute though.

And there is my biggest problem. Finding time, undisturbed, to play, practice, write, memorize, think and make music. My ultimate goal is to learn a handful of songs and play them well enough to show my face at a local open mic night. I have no idea when this will be possible but I'll get there. I have even begun trying to write my own songs again, which I haven't done since, sadly, high school.

This video is a great glimpse into my attempts to practice here and there. The babies are in their highchairs for lunch, which is an opportune time since they would usually be grabbing, smacking and banging toys into my guitar while I try to play. They love it. It is adorable, but really not good for my gorgeous cherry burst finish. Daphne is wandering around dancing, trying to talk to me and show me things and then begins banging around the baby gate off screen. Pretty typical. I push through!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrKpUxfWb_w

(Here is the link to my YouTube video. Having technical issues trying to upload it directly to my blog. Apologies.)

Anyway, there it is. I put it out there. Eek! Just my way of staying on track in order to reach my dream. Taking myself out of my comfort zone and laying it all out there for anyone to see. Hopefully I will get more time to practice and find my way. Thanks for stopping by. You stay classy, San Diego.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Yesterday, my beautiful fraternal twin sons celebrated their first birthday. The whole day was almost surreal. A whole year has passed by since I felt the first real twinges of labor pains warning me that my babies were almost ready to officially join our family. A whole year has passed by since I gave birth to them in turn and experienced one of the scariest days of my life. (Click here to read previous post for details) A whole year has passed by since my life became so much harder and yet, so much better at the same time. The babies have no idea that it was their birthday yesterday and probably have no idea that the party was all for them. They won't remember it, no matter how hard I tried to make it a special one. They will see the pictures one day and think that it was nice. And that is how first birthdays are. Truthfully, I feel that first birthday celebrations are more for the parents and the families. It is a wonderful reason to celebrate. So, yesterday may have been more for me than for them. Looking back on the last year...I'd say I deserved a party. I will take a moment now to happy dance around my table and say, "Yeah baby! I f-ing did it!" For one whole year!

I am tired, exhausted and worn out. I am stiff, sore and maybe a little malnourished. I have been on an emotional roller coaster of depression, sadness and at times, self loathing. I drink a bit and smoke a bit, or as I call these vices to myself, I use my "mommy crutches". (Stupid, I know. Ah well, gets me through the days every once in a while.) But, believe it or not, I am so very happy and content all at the same time. I am in love. My heart overflows with it and the feeling can take my breath away. I have so much to be proud of and happy about and grateful for. I would not change a single moment of the last year. It is all part of the package that is this crazy life. It is all part of the process of being me, finding me and molding me. I'll take it. Every last second.

But, back to the party. I love to throw a party. This was, of course, my first time getting to throw a party for twins. I loved it. I thought a long time about the theme of the party. I asked around and the most popular theme that came up was Dr. Seuss' Thing One and Thing Two. I'd seen it done so many times before and wanted something a little more unique. I decided on a cartoon that my babies love called Bananas in Pyjamas, an Australian based cartoon we found on Netflix a while back. It was perfect because it is about two bananas named B1 and B2 and the twins just happen to watch it all the time.

Image from: http://malloftheemirates.com/press-release/mall-of-the-emirates-debuts-%E2%80%98bananas-in-pyjamas%E2%80%99-plus-%E2%80%98xtreme-festival%E2%80%99-shows-roll-on-dss-fun.aspx

I decided to make the twins outfits to wear for their special day so that they would look a little like these two cute bananas.


Edwyn & Zayne


So cute. They wouldn't leave the hats on for very long but they did love to play with them. I crocheted them using a pattern that I found on Pinterest. I love to crochet and this ended up being quite helpful since I couldn't find bright yellow hats to purchase anywhere. Here is the pattern: Crochet Toddler Hat with Brim. Super easy. I did each one in a night while watching a movie.

We had the party at my In-Laws' house because I was worried that it would be too warm if we had everyone over in my house. We kept the food simple: Meat and cheese tray with buns, veggies and dip, fruit, pasta salad, etc. I found out that our local grocery store chain, Cub Foods, gives a free sheet cake for first birthdays with birth certificate proof. I thought about that but decided, because I know myself so well, that baking their cake would make me much happier. Baking and cooking is something I love to do. I baked for my first three children and didn't want to stop tradition now. I found a recipe for banana cake online. I turned it into cupcakes and added homemade cream cheese frosting. They turned out so good. I would definitely use this recipe again. Here is the recipe if you would like to try it: Banana Cake. For the frosting I used two eight ounce blocks of cream cheese, one stick of butter and about three cups or so of powdered sugar. I mixed it all together until smooth and creamy. It made about one half gallon in a zip lock bag. Delicious.

First Cake!!!

I am a big fan of Sherbet Punch so that is what I made for a fun beverage. You can make many different flavors and combinations. I bought pineapple sherbet, cream soda, pineapple soda and Apple Banana Pineapple Juice. In a very large punch bowl, place the half gallon of sherbet as one big lump in the center. I poured one liter of cream soda, two liters of pineapple soda and one quart of juice over the sherbet. It will be cold, foamy and tasty. As people scoop the punch, it is nice to scoop up a chunk of sherbet into the cup, almost like a root beer float. Yum! Get creative with the sherbet and soda flavor combinations. I usually pick something that will end up being a color that matches my party theme.



I had also seen a recipe on Facebook a while back and knew right away that I wanted to make them for this party. Banana slices sandwiched with peanut butter and then covered in chocolate. What!? Yes, please. I made them and they were scrumptious!



For party invitations I use a great website called Evite.com. They have hundreds of themes and occasions to choose from. It is very easy to use and create fun invitations that are emailed directly to your guest list. You can send messages to guests when you need to and can easily keep track of RSVP's. I very rarely mail out invitations anymore now that I found this resource. It is just so convenient. Here are a couple screenshots to give you an idea:



It was a wonderful day. A whole lot of work but a whole lot of fun, too. I will also take a moment here to publicly thank my amazing Mother-in-Law, Uli, for opening up her home and helping make the twins' first birthday a memorable one. Thank you, Uli. You are great!

Here are a few pictures, just because (Some are a little blurry, so much commotion, they barely stopped moving all day long.):

Me & Zayne

Oma & Eddie

Mommy & Daddy helping

Zayne grabbed a gift and took off with it after he got the hang of what presents are.

Eddie crawling around in a pile of gift wrap and new toys.
So, there it is. Party's over. On to the next year. Sigh. I will close this post with a few photo highlights from the first year of The Louden Twins. Love to you and yours.

Eddie & Zayne

Zayne & Eddie

Zayne & Eddie
Eddie
Zayne
Eddie
Zayne
Eddie & Zayne