More sure than I’ve ever been.

Whew. First off – I am feeling better. I’m not 100% yet, but boy howdy that was rough. It kind of tanked my vacation, but the point was to see my family and our newest member and I was able to do that.

I’ve had a lot of complicated feelings related to that trip. With the baby in particular. I promise it isn’t just related to the bad cold she gave me. It’s more about what she represents.

We decided we’re not having kids. We actually decided this like eight years ago and, uh, to be technical about it, locked that down. It ain’t happening. I had several academic reasons to not want kids and my husband always knew he’d never be a dad.

But that’s not to say we don’t like kids. We love kids. We can be goofy and fun and play with toys and any kid we’ve hung out with has been really awesome. They appreciate my silly songs and think my terrible jokes are hilarious. It’s pretty much my benchmark for anyone I could be friends with.

“Then why?” you ask yourself. Well, the urge to do it just isn’t there. I’m always really genuinely flattered when people say I’d be a good mom and are disappointed to learn about it. But the realities are that even with all my academic reasons, when I hung out with a baby this last week it was kind of a test of me and my gut feeling. Here was the first baby I’d been up close and personal with, hanging out, excited for all her potential… and nothing happened. Nothing changed. She was cute and sweet and I love her to bits. But there was no, “oh god, I need one, what am I doing with my life”.

Like I said: I had many academic reasons not to. But there was a question in my mind about if I spent time with this kid, that maybe something would shift in me emotionally. Hell, people had been telling me that for years.

Here is a short list of reactions to “I’m not having kids” that weren’t disappointment:

  • Oh, you’ll change your mind when your friends start having kids.
  • Oh, you’ll change your mind when you get older.
  • There’s a clock that will just start ringing and you’ll want them.
  • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?
  • What about your family? Don’t you want your family to live on?
  • Then what are you doing with your life?
  • What’s wrong with you?

My reaction to all those things was anything from rolling my eyes to pain and soul searching. But the one I couldn’t discredit was that something might change when I had friends with kids. Maybe something would happen when I had that experience. At this point in our lives a few friends had kids, but this was the first baby we’d spent time with. As I took her and held her, I slowly crossed that one off the list. I was sure.

There was a movie that came out recently called Inside Out. It’s a Pixar movie where Amy Poehler plays one of many emotions living inside a pre-teen girl. Her family relocates and her emotions go on a journey of sorts and the feelings have feelings and hijinks ensue. I normally love Pixar movies, but I really didn’t care for this one. The plot did nothing for me.

Most people loved the movie. It made them cry. I think I didn’t like it because I lack the parenting part of my brain. Now, I know that nurturing component isn’t totally missing from me (trust, I’ve done plenty of emotional fussing over friends and family). But I just didn’t care about the characters, the plot of this girl and her family… Anything about it.

I know, it’s just some movie. But I think this is the first time I really saw in myself that I’d made the right decision. It’s the first time I knew I was missing something. Is there something wrong with me? Maybe? I know that I do know what love is and I know a person made partly of my DNA isn’t a guarantee of it.

People might see this and feel bad for me. Think that I’m missing out on some unique life experience… But I’m not. I’ve had and have people who depend on me and love me. I’ve helped my friends and family where I can and had their love and support in return. You might say that’s not the same, and it probably isn’t. But I know I am content with this. I know this is how it is meant to be. I am Aunt Lauren. And that is totally fine.

Advertisements

How To Make Your Own Barbie Candy Dress Cake

I used to make candy cakes: Styrofoam cakes with candy hot glued to the outside. The candy simply pulls off the styrofoam and you take off the wrapper and enjoy. My Barbie Candy Cake is by far the most popular thing I’ve posted on Pinterest. It’s a cake with a REAL BARBIE DOLL INSIDE. No weird disembodied torso, OH NO. THE REAL DEAL. Here she is, in all her purple glory:

barbie1watermark

Pretty neat, yes? The advantage of creating these cakes at the candy store was that there was professional equipment at our disposal, like a heated styrofoam cutter, and literally hundreds of sizes and shapes of candy. While you don’t have an entire candy store at the ready, this Barbie candy cake IS possible to make in your own home. And hey – I needed a birthday present, so now is just as good a time as any to make the tutorial.

redbarbiewatermark

I will say that the equipment makes or breaks the “doability” of this project.

Supplies:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue
  • A hot styrofoam cutter OR serrated knife (a bread knife is cool)
  • A vacuum
  • A drill with spades*

*This is to drill the hole Barbie will go in. If you don’t have a drill you’re going to end up just hacking away a hole in the middle of the styrofoam so Barbie can go inside. Is this easy or safe? Not terribly. The wiser investment might be plunking down a 20 at Michaels for that hot styrofoam cutter.

Shopping List:

  • Anything from the above list you don’t have
  • (2) 8” Cake Dummies (they will be 4″ tall)
  • 1 9” Cake Round (Cardboard Circle)
  • Tissue Paper (to cover the cake round, so maybe in a coordinating color)
  • A chunk of cardstock 4”x8” (we literally used a chunk of a cereal box)
  • A Barbie, with a short skirt or bathing suit outfit
  • A giant pile of candy in your color scheme

 

Lets discuss the shopping list. The cake dummies are just round styrofoam chunks. Cake decorators use them for practice. You will use them to create the dress. They, and your cake round, can be purchased from any cake decoration store. Support a small business; shop at a local one!

As for the candy, I’d get a color theme in mind. Match it with your Barbie. My Barbie and candy was from around Valentine’s, so that’s why we’re working with a lot of red and pink. You want to make sure you’re picking things that will glue on easily. Anything like a Tootsie Roll isn’t ideal because the hot glue and the wax wrapper aren’t friends. It will just fall off. I love Air Heads candy because they’re a. delicious and b. get good coverage. Laffy Taffy in all it’s wonderful shapes and sizes is also a plus. The purple Barbie has a fan in the back of her dress made of a lollipop with more candy glued to it. My red Barbie just had a few small lollipops in the back. I like the tiny pops because they help fill weird holes and sometimes you can use the sticks for gluing (more on this below).

When thinking of where you can buy the candy, I’d look to local candy stores and bulk food shops first. I made the mistake of trying a Party City first. I went to three before giving up on them. A lesson in taking my own advice. Shop local!

A note: Please keep your kids in mind when picking candy. Allergies are always a concern and sometimes tiny candy is a choking hazard. Be mindful, be safe. Okay, you have a pile of tools! Lets GET TO WORK.

MAKING THE BARBIE CANDY CAKE:

barbiebootywatermark

1. Glue the two cake dummies together using hot glue, one on top of the other. You don’t need to hot glue the thing to death, just enough to create a solid bond, so you have a cylinder that is 8″ tall and 8″ across. While the glue cools…

2. Mark center on both the top and the bottom. That’s 4” in. At this point you’ll pick out your wide spade for the drill or if using a foam cutter, measure a 2” circle to be your guide for cutting out the middle so Barbie can fit. Barbie has booty.

3. Oh yeah, secure Barbie’s skirt, if she has one. I used the rubber bands from her packaging.

4. Get your vacuum ready and drill/cut your hole, working from the top and bottom so you meet in the middle. Our spade was 1.5”, so we wiggled it around a little. Styrofoam will fly and stick to everything because of static electricity and science. The vacuum will keep you from going crazy trying to clean up. The hot cutter will be cleaner and might not need the vacuum. If the edge is rough, that’s okay. You’ll cover it with candy.

 

geodresswatermark

Look! Barbie has a very couture minimalist wedding dress now. It’s a statement about the wedding industrial complex. She’s writing her thesis on it.


5. Take Barbie out and grab your cardstock. This is going to be a guide for the slope of your dress curve. Draw on the cardboard approximately what you want your curve to look like. Cut on the inside of the curve. This will give you your guide. You can see it below in the action shot of us cutting down the foam.

slicingwatermark

slicinggif

6. Take your bread knife or foam cutting knife and start shaving chunks away. Use the guide and check your progress, by holding it up to your cake. This will help you keep a consistent curve. Otherwise her dress might be weird and lumpy. Again, being exact isn’t 100% necessary because you are covering it with candy. I made a gif of that cutting action for you.

Another note: for the love of all candy, please be careful cutting and drilling and gluing this all together. There are so many exciting ways you can hurt yourself working on this. Take your time and be cautious. I will say it is most likely you’ll burn yourself with the hot glue gun. I’ve done it myself. Careful. Please. Thank you.

7. After cutting away the sides, do a height check. We found that Barbie’s hips were at about 7.5” so we cut a final half inch slice off the bottom.

Ooo dang it’s looking like a dress now!

foamdresswatermark

8. Now we assess our candy situation and think about how to design our dress. I completely just make up a dress. I use bigger candy as poofs and try to make layers. The nice thing about the hot glue is if it sucks, you can rip it off and start over. So play around. I like to use the rope Laffy Taffy to define my poofs. The two tone thing (like the purple Barbie) takes more design savvy to pull off, but I think it looks really cool.

candylayoutwatermark

When looking at coverage, I’ll sometimes lay out my candy so I can see how I’m doing. You want to make the front and sides as symmetrical as you can. It looks crummy if it isn’t. The back is the back, so it’s kind of fair game to kind of have it a little messy. But for the front and sides? Yeah. Matchy matchy. It also helps, I think, to establish a pattern.

9. Start slapping glue on there. Apply some, not a lot, of glue to your candy. Press it to the foam and hold for maybe 5 seconds.

midglueingwatermark

Sometimes you end up with weird little holes peaking out inbetween your candy. My recommendation is to take some of that tissue paper and dab a little glue on it. Use a lollipop stick to poke it inbetween you candy to cover up the styrofoam. Honestly, you’ll see the gaps and no one else will, but this is a cheap and easy fix. You could also use small candy like the Jolly Rancher. My finished dress also has zots turned on their sides glued in. I think it make it look like little bow/tufts on the side.

10. Once you’ve filled in all your gaps, your dress is complete! Give it a once over and see if anything is loose. A little extra gluing won’t hurt, especially if it needs to travel somewhere else. Once this is done, take the cake round, hot glue the tissue paper to it, and glue it to the bottom of the dress, tissue paper color side up. Make sure you leave the center 2″ free of glue so Barbie’s shoes don’t get glued down. This is your base.

That’s it! At this point, you have a finished Barbie cake! Ta da! You did it!

dressturngif

Once the candy is devoured, Barbie can be slipped out and played with separately and the cake (if not too beat up) might live to be another dress. Play around, see what kind of color patterns you like and most importantly – HAVE BACKUP CANDY. You might get hungry while you work. It’s part of the design process. Happy crafting!

826Michigan and aliens with indigestion: this non-profit turns kids into authors.

826 Book: Where Is It Coming From?

I have a new book written by kids for kids. Well, it’s cute and charming, and I bought it… so it’s clearly for adults too. The book “Where Is It Coming From?” is the most recent release from 826Michigan, one chapter of a large network of 826 shops all over the country. The shops are actually creative writing and tutoring centers for kids, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside. Each shop is a little quirky storefront and the tutoring center is in the back offices. Michigan’s quirky store? Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair.

Why is a robot store publishing books? The roots of this comes from the first shop, 826 Valencia, in San Francisco. The non-profit’s founder, Dave Eggers, had set-up the first tutoring center in an area in San Francisco that was zoned for retail. The city informed them they had to sell something. So what did the creative sorts come up with? Supplies for the everyday pirate. Oh yeah, I’m not kidding. Friends bought me a fake mustache, a wooden spoon, and a pirate t-shirt when they visited the store. Business BOOMED and the proceeds supported the non-profit. They said the store quickly paid the rent on the whole space.

The shop was so successful they replicated it in other places. A superhero supply in New York, where they have a cape test area, with a fan built in so you can see it waving in the breeze. A yeti research shop in Boston that was so unusual that the cops cased it for sometime before entering inside to ask what was going on. The Boring Store in Chicago is a front for a spy store… they were deep undercover. LA has a time travel convenience store. Seattle has a space travel supply. Washington DC has the Museum of Unnatural History, which gave me this gem:

The Missing Link

The text on the jar says, “Missing Link. Generations of scientists spent their lives searching for it. Now it can be yours.”

All these wonderful stores are just kitschy and enjoyable to me. I’ve worked in and volunteered for non-profits for a long time, so their unique blend of personality and commitment to their mission really strikes a chord with me. I’ve been a long time supporter, visiting half of the shops personally, but also buying the books they publish. They publish books regularly, like the book above, so these kids are PUBLISHED AUTHORS. BEFORE THE AGE OF 18. Isn’t that awesome?! I wish we had something like this when I was a kid.

Some recent and good news is that they’re starting a new store/center in Detroit. The one in Ann Arbor is nice and has done a lot of good, but it’s really pretty far from the Metro Detroit area, so it makes it hard for them to connect with some of the schools in this area that would really benefit from the field trips and one-on-one tutoring opportunities.

They’re working on building the new shop as I type. I hope to be a volunteer. I feel like writing is such an important skill. It gives importance to self expression, builds self esteem, and is a crucial skill for one’s adult life. I love how these shops have focused on that, while having a little fun while they’re at it. It’s just a wonderful thing and I’m very excited that they exist.

 

To learn more about the 826 stores, visit 826national.org. Maybe consider making a donation or buying one of their books!