"I am alive and kicking"

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Monday, October 31, 2016

CHERRY BOMB! on Halloween

With accompanying zombie 

Finally! The reveal!
Jacob's costume turned out better than expected. He was the cherry bomb from Plants vs. Zombies.

Paper mache is a pain, but effective.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
We took a pumpkin treat bucket and put a layer of paper mache on it so we could paint it red. Then I painted the face on it and used green pipe cleaners to make the stem.
Jacob said, 'You are the coolest mom ever!" so I guess I succeeded at my task.
Last night, we walked the three blocks to Ethan's American Legion hall for a not-so-spooky haunted house, games and treats.
Jacob said I had to dress up too.

This is what happens when I get to have fun
for Halloween. (Selfie by Anna Jauhola)

After we spent probably a half hour at the Legion hall, we went home and waited to hand out candy.
We decorated my office as scary as possible and turned on the portable heater to stay warm.
We carved pumpkins in the afternoon and put them out to look nice and spooky.

Above, our jack-o-lanterns before it got dark.
Below, they are much more terrifying.
(photos by Anna Jauhola)

We might have more fun tonight, probably handing out candy.
I'll be lighting the jack-o-lanterns until they curl up and look gross.
I'll be keeping my office creepy for a while too, perhaps for a little inspiration.

Just me bein' creepy.
(Selfie by Anna Jauhola)

In the mean time, Happy Halloween!
Don't be afraid to enjoy yourselves today. 
It's a waste if you don't. I was a zombie yesterday.
Today, I'm a mysterious creepy lady. 
I hat the had from a few years ago and 
just decided that's enough of a costume with makeup.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Halloween paper mache costume diary

Tuesday, Oct. 25     
8:13 a.m.
This year I've agreed to create a Halloween costume for Jacob.
It's six days before Halloween and I'm dreading the process.
I won't reveal what he will be yet, but I will tell you involves paper mache and a beach ball.
It is early Tuesday and I will need to look up an effective paper mache recipe so the damn thing actually turns out. I don't want him running round in a goopy mess.

This 36-inch beach ball will be the base for
Jacob's costume. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
8:22 a.m.
I've found the recipe I need! Simpler than I figured it would be - just flour and water. I overthink things way too much. We'll see how this goes this evening with a dog, two cats, a 7-year-old and me.
Should be interesting.

11:37 a.m.
My brain will not stop reminding me of my epic task tonight.
"Paper mache ...." it whispers. "Oh, and remember, you also have to make playdough for Jacob to bring to school. So there's that. And ... you have dishes to do and laundry to fold."
Damn you, brain. Why can't you focus on one thing?! I gave you a granola bar. Isn't that enough?

5:00 p.m.
OK. So, that was a gigantic pain in the butt. However, we got half the beach ball covered in paper mache and it is currently drying. How long will it take to dry? I. Don't. Know. This could be a problem. Not to worry! I have a hair dryer. That could help, right? We'll work on the other half tomorrow evening.
P.S. The dog and cats weren't interested at all in the project. They may have avoided the kitchen due to my hostility toward the project.

The flour/water mixture for
the paper mache paste.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Damn that was annoying. I hope I never
agree to this sort of thing again.
P.S. I do not have a camera on the
front of my phone.
This was pure talent to get this shot
on the first try. (Selfie by Anna Jauhola)

Wednesday, Oct. 26
5:30 a.m.
Jacob woke me up about 5 a.m. with a bad dream. We've been reading and watching too much Harry Potter, apparently. Damn dementors. Anyway, we got up at 5:30 and I checked on the beach ball. It's still damp, but not too bad. The house gets cold at night, so I didn't expect the paper mache to dry completely. I'll take the hair dryer to it this evening

11:07 a.m.
Crap. It's Wednesday! And I only have a few days left to make this costume. I researched the possibility of making a quicker-drying paste. But the only comments and suggestions were to blow air on the project. Back to just blowing the crap out of it with my blow dryer, which gets SUPER hot, by the way.

4:30 p.m.
Alrighty. I mixed up some more paper mache paste, cut up more strips of newspaper and got to work. This time around, Jacob was not so interested, so I was on my own.
I sat down and painted paste onto the beach ball, then laid newspaper on top, then painted the newspaper with more paste. Once I'd finally finished covering the ball with this crap, I busted out my super hot blow dryer and multi-tasked by also playing a couple of rounds of Plants Vs. Zombies. I lost those rounds, but I did not lose my battle with the beach ball.

The blow dryer did its job! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

5:14 p.m.

Success! The paper mache is drying phenomenally! So now that I've got that far, I'll leave for now and see how it dries over night.

Thursday, Oct. 27
5:45 a.m.
Well, the paper mache dried nicely. Now I feel much more confident about completing this project. I'll get on it this evening and get the whole ball covered in at least a second layer so I can get painting on Friday.
Check back on the big day - Halloween! - to see Jacob in all his glory, for the big reveal of his costume.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Scouting is a life-long adventure

To many, Scouting is something of a novelty, and I was recently taken aback when I realized how many people have never been involved in the activity. 
Jacob recently joined Cub Scouts as a Tiger Scout. I was a Girl Scout (up until sixth grade or so) and my brothers were both Boy Scouts. So it was only natural that Jacob join as well. 

Jacob is a first grader and is a Tiger Scout. Scouts advance ranks by grade.
We attended his first meeting Oct. 16 during which I sat in a room full of adults who weren't quite sure what to do. But we could all plainly hear the boys were having a blast in the room down the hall. 
During introductions, a good majority of the adults who had newly enrolled Scouts had never been involved in Scouting. My jaw nearly dropped. While it had been a part of my life growing up, I didn't expect everyone to have been involved. but I figured more than half would have some experience with the national activity.
Us adults did our adulting -- meeting in parent groups for different dens, purchasing uniforms, awkwardly discussing who would lead groups, and so on. 
The boys had fun and were almost sad to go. 
Jacob said, "Cub Scouts was great! It was so short!" 
When I told him he was there for an hour he couldn't believe it. 
On Thursday, Jacob's belief in the fact that Scouting is just great was reinforced when we went Scouting for Food, a community service project. Boy Scouts annually hang plastic bags with instructions on doors throughout town, asking for donations to the local food pantry. 
If that wasn't enough fun for one night, Jacob was more thrilled on Saturday when we went back to pick up any food people left out. 
"We got 12 donations, Mom! That's so great!" 
He was so excited to help people who don't have what they need. 
We helped sort the food at The Salvation Army, which he also thought was great fun and is super excited for his next project with his Tiger Den and Scout Pack. 
Although I was a Girl Scout, I longed desperately to be a Boy Scout. They did so many more cool things than we did -- wood working, Pine Wood Derby, building stuff, camping, winter camping, and so on. (I secretly read my brother's handbooks and remember being fascinated by the projects they did.) That's not to say our troop didn't do some fun things, but I just wasn't overly interested in designing clothing, cooking domestic meals or finding what colors matched my skin tone (apparently I'm supposed to wear pastels). I wanted to be outside and cook over fires and learn how to survive in the woods, go canoeing and learn about nature. 
I suppose now I will need to learn those skills and will do so right alongside my child as he learns them. It should be quite the adventure. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Take time to hear both sides

Police incident has me thinking, as a reporter and a citizen

Our country is in turmoil, to say the least.
I'm not talking about the election, though that is a huge part of the turmoil.
This morning, I noticed on Facebook in the trending feed "Edina, Minnesota. 25K talking about this."
Naturally, as a native Minnesotan, curiosity struck and I clicked on the link. It led me to a video of a police officer in Edina leading a black man to an unmarked squad vehicle for supposedly walking in the middle of the lane of traffic.

A screenshot of the Facebook trending page regarding the incident in Edina.

I watched the entire 7-minute video. The woman who made the recording repeatedly asked the officer, "Why can't you just show (the man) where a safe place to walk is?" while the officer had hold of the black man's jacket. The man was irate, swearing at the officer and becoming violent, while the woman continued saying, "He's scared. People die in these situations, it's scary."
The officer would intermittently tell the woman and other off-camera observers to back up and mind their own business.
The woman said on the video she'd witnessed the incident from the beginning. However, she didn't begin recording until the police officer was leading the man to the squad car, so the mass audience watching this video does not currently have the full story. This is dangerous. When people just immediately believe what they see rather than waiting for all details to make an informed decision, that's when trouble, hatred and anger brew.
I have an enormous amount of respect for law enforcement officers who do their jobs correctly and are transparent about their actions. I also have a great respect for people who are willing to record situations like this, which they have every right to do. However, they likely do not think about two things when recording -- how their own lives may be in danger and how their actions can impact the situation.
The Edina Police Department has responded to the video on the department Facebook page. The department claims the officer observed the man walking in the middle of the road after walking around sidewalk construction, and when the officer tried to alert the man to move off the roadway, the man ignored the officer and continued walking. The officer then pulled in front of the man, parked the squad vehicle a ways in front of the man and got out to confront him. The man walked around the squad vehicle, according the department.
The woman claims in her video, and the black man arrested also said, that he was walking on the white line to get around the sidewalk construction.
Again, the entire story is not out there yet! I'm waiting to see any dash-cam video the department might release, which could clear up what actually happened. I'm curious whether it was absolutely necessary for the officer to physically lead the man to the squad vehicle, and if the man's anger toward the officer was justified.
It's bothersome that people just blindly support one side or the other without finding all sides of the story. The national media can be notorious for sensationalizing an incident like this, seemingly just for web hits and gaining readership. Good sources will blatantly tell readers and viewers that the story is developing, all reports are not out yet and will also report from all sides as best they can -- sometimes it's not possible to get in touch with victims or the accused.
Good readers and viewers will take into account that the story has just broken and that they should make note to follow it, rather than making an immediate decision based on their own feelings on the incident.
I will be following this incident, hoping details are transparently released to the public and that the incident is not just swept under the rug. I hope Edina shows the country that police are doing their best and, if a situation warrants it, a reprimand and apology will be made. But, if the officer was in the right, I hope Edina also shows all evidence necessary to back up the officer's actions.
America is in need of some strong leadership, not only in the Oval Office, but in our local offices as well.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Gotta love the embodiment of God's sense of humor

What do you get when you have a 7 year old who loves "Phineas and Ferb", and is super curious?
"Mom, are platypuses real?"
That was the beginning of my conversation this morning with Jacob as we drove to Mitchell.
"Yes honey, they are real. And you know what? They are mammals that lay eggs."
Mind. Blown.
"I didn't know mammals could lay eggs!" Jacob said.
So I handed Jacob my phone and he Googled platypus so he could see a picture of a real one.

Platypuses are strange animals from the wilds of Australia.
Jacob's reaction? "Yuck." He said they look nothing like Perry the Platypus from "Phineas and Ferb."
I laughed and said, "Well, Perry is a cartoon. Real platypuses are not pets."
He asked why they lay eggs. And we had to look it up, because I couldn't remember the name for mammals that lay eggs. So, trusty old National Geographic was in the top billing for search results and we clicked on the link to find platypuses are monotremes - one of five species of monotremes, in fact.
The other four are different types of echidnas. All monotremes live in Australia and New Guinea.
Jacob was so excited about learning these facts that he asked me to write down the word monotreme so he could share this fantabulous news with his class at school.
Today, I predict Jacob might be a tad bit obnoxious in telling everyone he talks to what he learned about platypuses and monotremes.
He was disappointed, however, to find that Perry the Platypus is not real. It would be super awesome to have a pet platypus who is also secretly a spy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Book-in-a-Day: Bookshots by James Patterson is my new obsession

It's been years since I've finished a book in one day.
The last one I remember reading in a 24-hour period was "E is for Evidence" by Sue Grafton. I stayed up until 3 a.m. on a school night (GASP!) because I simply couldn't put it down. I just kept saying, "Just one more chapter."
On Friday, I stopped at the local bookstore, which is dangerous, and found a stack of James Patterson books. It attracted my attention because the books were quite thin, so I couldn't help but pick them up. Below is what I found - a 144-page thriller.

"113 Minutes" is a fast-paced thriller in which we find out
who killed Molly Rourke's son. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

They are called Bookshots. Mr. Patterson co-authors many of the books, including the one I read, "113 Minutes." I started reading it while waiting for my son to get done with school for the day. And when I got home, I set it on my desk and planned to read before bed. When I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. It was so fast paced and well written that I had to find out what happened. (Note: I did not have to stay up until 3 a.m.)
Actually, it only took me a couple hours to read - I'm a slow reader, most others would maybe have devoured it in an hour.
Bookshots is right up my alley -- 150-page-or-less thrillers, romances, and nonfiction -- not only because I like to read a good story quickly, but because it's the type of fiction writing I'm interested in pursing.
It'll be my mission over the winter to read and dissect as many of these Bookshots as possible.
Writing in this novella format would be so perfect. I love reading a long book (like the last four Harry Potter books) but I cannot imagine writing anything much over 200 pages.
If you're interested, take a gander at Mr. Patterson's Bookshots -- listed on his webpage or right at Bookshots.com.
P.S. When you read "113 Minutes" you'll be intrigued by the plot. It's entertaining and totally satisfying, at least for this former cops and courts reporter. It truly is "all thriller, no filler."