Random Thoughts

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello! Welcome to May’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

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– As I mentioned, Saturday was party central at our house. June’s was mostly outside in the backyard and on the deck. I adore pretty much any color spectrum anything, so I was delighted she picked rainbows as a theme. We put rainbow ribbons in the trees, and it won’t surprise me if we keep them there all summer long. They look so pretty!

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Two highlights from June’s party: 1) A sticker board. Ralph filled an oversize piece of foamcore with initials in a pattern — R, O, Y, G, B in diagonal stripes. Then the kids, age 5 and 6, would put 2-inch circle stickers in corresponding colors on the initials. Easy, fun, and the kids were excited about what they made. This was the activity we started with while guests arrived, and then kids would go back to it throughout the party to add more stickers. Before the party, we used the stickers to make cupcake toppers too.

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For lunch, we ate outdoors on our deck. There were hotdogs on the grill, and a big bowl of chips, but the best part was our giant cutting board filled with a rainbow of fruits and veggies. It sat in the center of the table and the kids helped themselves.

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Even the aftermath was pretty:

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– Betty’s party was also delightful. The theme was Series of Unfortunate Events. We started with VFD charades. Phrases with VFD play a big part in the series, (like Very Fancy Doilies and Volunteer Fire Department) so Maude used her typewriter and created 20 or so cards with VFD phrases on them. Some from the book, but most that our kids just made up.

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The books feature 3 siblings. The oldest likes to invent, the second likes to read, and the third likes to cook. So that informed the rest of our activities. After charades, the kids invented by doing an egg drop. We put out a bunch of materials — rubberbands, straws, popsicle sticks, a stack of newsprint, glue gun, masking tape, etc. — and each guest created a contraption to try and protect their eggs. We gave them about 45 minutes to work on their contraptions, then they took turns dropping their creations — with a raw egg inside — off our balcony onto the front walk. This was a big hit! None the of the eggs survived completely intact, but some only had a crack!

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After that, it was reading time — we had all the Series books out on display in the family room and reading loft, but mostly the kids wanted to watch the movie, so they did that for about 20 minutes. Then it was time to cook! They prepared Pasta Puttanesca for dinner — a meal featured in the first book. Though, we didn’t really follow the recipe. Instead, they made penne with marinara sauce and bolognese sauce.

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Our cousins joined in at the end of the day which was perfect. After the guests left, we could just hang out with family and relax and enjoy dinner.

– I’m craving a good date with Ben Blair. We do what I’ll call “mini-dates” almost daily. We work out together, do evening grocery shopping together, run to Target together. We’ll hit a late movie once or twice a month. I love any chance I get to hang out with him, so no complaints, but I’m in the mood for a real date. A concert or a museum or a restaurant where we’ve made reservations well in advance. I feel like we were really good at those kinds of dates when we lived in New York, but we’ve been crummy about them ever since. How do you handle dates with your spouse or partner?

– Speaking of museums, I want to see the new SF MOMA! It just reopened after 3 years of renovations. They started the work before we moved here, so none of my kids have seen it. I can’t wait to take the family!

– And speaking of reservations well in advance, I’ve come to realize that part of why we no longer go on planned dates is that we’re in a stage of life where advance planning actually stresses us out instead of relieves us. We seem to be in a phase of life where we can only do things spontaneously. There are exceptions, but mostly I find I’m resistant to put anything “extra” on our calendar. It’s generally pretty packed with school and work commitments, and I’ve found that if I add a dinner-with-friends to the calendar, or buy tickets to Pop-up Magazine event, seeing it on the calendar causes my heart rate to go up.

Instead, “extra” activities seem to be best at the last minute. We love calling friends at 8 or 9 PM and going out for dessert. And we’re great with someone calling at 5:00 and saying they have tickets for a show later that night if we want to go. Beyonce´is in town tonight, and it won’t surprise me if we’re on StubHub this afternoon looking at tickets.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I find I’m much happier about events when they come up last minute. In part, it seems to be so much easier to assess our home and the kids right then and there, and make a smart decision. Is anyone sick? Are there school projects due that someone forgot? Do we have the groceries we need for tomorrow? Are the older kids home and available to babysit? We can get immediate answers and can make a plan.

On the other hand, when we plan in advance, stuff tends to come up and I often find myself wishing we could cancel. It definitely wasn’t always like this, and I’m assuming it won’t be like this forever, but while it lasts, we’re kind of awful to try and make plans with. Does anyone else feel like this? Am I the only one?

– I can’t believe we’re headed to France next month! We get two whole months there!! June 20th to August 20th. Just thinking about it seems so dang dreamy. We’ll be working on our house, doing some traveling, reconnecting with all the people we love in Normandy and mostly just soaking up how much we love being there. The countryside, the food, the pace. All of it.

Right now, we’re trying to figure out how much of our time there we should plan out and how much to keep flexible. Have you already made your summer plans?

– Speaking of summer, the summer fruit has arrived and we are eating piles of it. Apricots and nectarines for miles.

– I’ve had another major run-in with poison oak. Which I’m kind of incredulous about because I try to be so dang careful. But despite my precautions, my shoulders, back and stomach are covered in the awful rash at the moment.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to renew my depression meds, and I’ll ask for a giant pack of the poison oak ointment too. I basically have to have a stockpile on hand to get me through the summer. But happily, I’m getting better at managing the pain if I do somehow get the rash.

What works best for me is to take 3 or more showers a day — I start with lukewarm water and soap up, then I turn the water super hot — it’s sort of a hurts-so-good thing and it seems to leach out some of the poison, then I turn the water cool. Then I towel off and put on ointment, and I’m good to go for about 4 or 5 hours.

– We have a fish! June’s big wish for her birthday was a pet. Though I grew up with both cats and dogs at our house, I haven’t felt comfortable getting a pet for my own kids. First because we were in baby stages and I didn’t think I could manage training a pet. And now, even though we’re well past the baby stage, we travel so much that it doesn’t seem like it would be fair to the pet. But we decided we could manage a beta fish. So that was June’s big birthday gift.

When she saw the fish, her eyes lit up. We asked her what his name should be and without hesitation she said, “James. James the Blue Fish.” It was pretty adorable.

Approximately 5 minutes later she was in tears wondering what would become of James when we were in France. I told her I thought one of our cousins would be willing to feed and care for him. That was comforting, but she’s sure she’ll miss him too much. Apparently she’s got that instant mother’s love thing going on. Hah!

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

40 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. The parties sound wonderful! My to-do list is about 2 pages long (typed!) right now, and it all needs to get done in the next 12 days or so! I’m preparing to leave the United States for two years to serve in the Peace Corps in Moldova (Eastern Europe), so there’s lots to be done. Getting prescriptions sorted out, visiting my bank (my debit card expires in June, but I’m leaving before that and really will need it!), getting a power of attorney (so my parents can access and make decisions about finances, etc. while I’m gone), purchasing 3 months worth of toiletries (including pads/tampons), getting last minute things I’m still lacking, visiting friends and family, and so much more. I’m with you on the no advance plans thing- and not just right now when I’m super busy. I dislike making plans way in advance because I never know what will come up. It even applies to international trips! My parents and I recently spent almost 2 weeks in South Africa, where my sister is currently on exchange for a semester, and we didn’t get tickets or decide to go until less than three weeks before we left! It’s not for everyone, but it works well for us.

    1. Oh my goodness! Two years in Moldova!! Wonderful. And so exciting! Your comment has so much happy energy in it. I can’t wait for your adventure to begin.

      Best of luck on the rest of the preparations. I’m sure they’ll go smoothly! And I’m glad I’m not alone on the last-minute inclinations. I think you’re right: It’s not for everyone, but it works well for us.

  2. I had a bout with poison ivy a few years ago and did the exact same treatment. It worked wonders. I got it on my legs so I’d just put them under hot as I could stand water for about a minute. It really takes the sting/itch away. So glad you found this remedy too!

    1. Yes! It works.

      Though I’ve heard some people suggest not using hot water because it could open the pores and let the poison go deeper. I have no idea if that’s really what happens, but it do know it provides relief!

  3. I feel best making plans last minute too but I wasn’t always this way! Our life is a bit crazy at the moment and ‘have to’s’ don’t bring as much pleasure as they should.

    Enjoy your time in France. I’m interested in how things go for you there!

    1. Thanks, Michele! We’re super excited. It will be fun to share our adventures here on Design Mom while we’re there.

      And I think you have a point, maybe putting something on the calendar turns it into a “have to” for me. Which isn’t as fun.

  4. I just want to say how much I love that you will sometimes mention your mental health. Not sure if you’re aware, but it’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I love when people normalize their mental health issues. I love all of your blog, but your normalization of your mental health issues is probably my favorite thing about it.

    1. I had no idea it was Mental Health Awareness Month. I need to be more aware. : )

      Sounds like it’s perfect timing for my doctor’s appointment. I’m so grateful for my medication! My brain gets so awful and sad without it.

  5. I’m so glad to hear you say it makes your heart race a little to see extra stuff on the calendar! I’m in the same phase–last-minute dates seem to work the best! You’re not alone!!!

  6. YES! I thought I was the only one who makes plans and later dreads them! Either the kids get sick or I’m up at night and exhausted or there’s too much work to finish- ugh!! Spontaneity is definitely the key for me right now, I think it will change as what feels like the ‘demands’ of life dwindle as kids move up and out. You’re not alone!! But, I’ve learned to keep making (some) plans and keep working through the dread with deep breaths and realizing I need to shift my mindset to the present in that moment – sometimes we run so far and fast that we find it hard to stop and just be where we are at – so it’s a good exercise in presence.

    Also – as a date suggestion – if you have not already I HIGHLY recommend the Oscar de la Renta show at the De Young – BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!! It seems like something you’d totally love. Went with a girlfriend and we decided we’d have to come back with our girls! Not sure if your husband would love it too but it was really cool and there were lots of men there (also not a huge show and so many other beautiful things to see at the museum) – just a few more weeks before it’s gone!

    1. Oh! Thanks for the tip about the Oscar de la Renta show. I would definitely love that! Putting it on my list for sure.

      I like what you said about continuing to make (some) plans. I feel the same way. It’s not possible to always be spontaneous, and having plans helps me make progress. In fact, I don’t know if I would ever work on the house if I didn’t have guests coming over. : )

  7. I just have to say, I really look forward to Mondays and Fridays here. I just love your random thoughts and bits and pieces! \

    Thank you for the tip about SF MOMA! We are driving from Edmonton, Alberta to San Fran, then up the west coast and I’m definitely putting MOMA on the list.

    I will almost never say yes to last minute plans, even if I have nothing planned, I get attached to the plan of hanging out and doing nothing! I should probably try to be more spontaneous.

  8. You always amaze! What lovely parties. Random thought connected to your France trip–we have friends looking for a fall 2016 homestay situation in a French speaking country/LDS home for their 15 year old son. If you know of any potential hosts, could you put is in touch? Bon voyage!

  9. Wow- I LOVE the giant cutting board rainbow of fruit and veg. And I couldn’t be happier that summer fruit season is going strong here in ca. I bought pounds and pounds of fruit Saturday and I’m fine that it’s all we want to eat all the time. This week blackberries and cherries have been my favorite.
    I don’t have summer plans yet but I’m excited to follow along on your trip and see how your home is coming along. I’m counting down the days until summer break- twelve more school days!

  10. Love your Random thoughts. Fabulous looking party and can’t wait to see you back in France, loveliness!!! And I had just this conversation with my hubs the other day… We are so in the season of spontaneous, inspiration strikes when the kids are settled for the day. We can dash out for milkshakes at 10:30 at night, and if we go out for dinner it’s always hours after the small kids are in bed and the teens are settled behind their screens… it is definitely not the season for carefully planned date nights… its almost as if we plan something, everything falls apart. Yes, this is definitely the season of spontaneous!!!

  11. The Other Robin

    Fun parties! The fruit rainbow was great! The book nerd in me must, however, speak up. The youngest sibling in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Sunny, didn’t love to cook, she loved to BITE! She was a favorite when my kids and I read the series. She was just a tiny, bite-y thing.

    1. Yes, she loved to bite! I loved that, too, and how helpful she was as an infant. In later books she develops her passion for cooking, memorably exclaiming “baba ganoush” at an appropriate moment.

  12. It’s interesting how different stages of life make you feel differently than other times do. Right now, after losing Will almost 5 months ago, we are constantly making plans to have things to look forward to. Every Monday my husband and I start plotting what kind of adventures and dates we will go on the following weekend, and we are planning out trips for pretty much every month. It’s helping us cope with missing our baby boy. But I could see how for you the plans would feel like another to-do.

  13. Random Thought? You know how you have an amazing “Design Idea!” for the home and then when you get all the pieces… you pause. you second guess. you wonder if maybe it wouldn’t look better *over there*? Well, I’ve been doing that with a gorgeous Rifle Paper wallpaper for the last year. However, I finally did it. Wallpaper installer just left minutes ago… the Original Wall is now papered … and it looks FABULOUS!! I am so excited!! (And of course, there’s no one in the house to squeal about it with me – LOL!!)

  14. Do you get to stay at your cottage in France or are you going to stay at your old digs (La Cressonniere)?

  15. Love your thoughts about dates and minidates with Ben Blair.
    I do not give engery to “dating” my love, and I think I would like to! I try to have special moments each day, and a weekly tea for two just to be together, but I also feel there are all sorts of Topics or Plans I should be discussing or making meetings for… That might be needed, but maybe a little lightheartedness might be too! We do fun things as a family, but rarely do the two of us have a fun date just for us.

  16. I hear you on the planned ahead events…we are at about the same stage of life, with one graduating this year down to one in second grade. We’ve tried scheduling dates and they always get trumped by unexpected events. We have better luck meeting for lunch at a museum or something like that close to my husbands work.
    As for poison ivy/oak, I’m the type of person that literally would get it from walking by a plant on a windy day and I would get it bad (one time from a dried up plant burned in our wood stove and inhaling the smoke, I got it in my lungs and throat)…not fun. I’ve tried it all from steroid shots to every single lotion and ointment. The things that have worked the best are TechNu (found at Walgreens/CVS type stores), using a soap that has jewelweed in it (natural type soap that I heard you can find at Whole Foods…I’ve gotten mine from soap making home businesses that sell at craft fairs and farmer’s markets) and my last resort remedy or when I really want it gone off of my hands or feet (I never do this for anywhere else) is to take a really hot shower, scrub with epsom salt and Dawn and then dab with straight bleach…I know no doctor would EVER recommend this, but I really do get it bad and when it’s on my hands especially I just want it gone. This usually dries it up in a day or two. On a similar note, when I worked as a life guard/swim instructer a couple of summers, the clorine from the pool would help dry it out pretty fast as well.
    Here is a thought though, as a kid my mom would make me drink goats milk from the goats we had, which she made eat the poison ivy growing around our farm. I guess it would inoculate(if you can call it that) my immune system enough that I didn’t break out nearly as bad. Maybe invest in some goats;)

  17. That is a really interesting discovery you have made about yourself! I feel like I can relate but in a different way. I love the idea of having a full calendar and always being busy getting together with friends and going out etc. but when it comes time to go…I just want to stay home. I look forward to things like book club and girls night outs and date nights with my hubby all the way up until the day of and then that day I just want to put jammies on and crawl in bed with a book or netflix. It’s so bizarre and I haven’t yet figured out why. I’ll have to put some more thought into it like you have! Thank you for posting these random thoughts–I really enjoy them!

  18. Another Poison Oak Suggestion. We just moved to Northern California and I am an avid trail runner (ultra marathoner) and I was taken back when after a run a group of people sat down with alcohol wipes and rubbed their legs with them. Every inch or exposed skin and used several wipes on each leg. So I went to the drug store (CVS has them) and got a tub of alcohol wipes. We also have dawn dish soap in the shower and scrub off with dawn. It is the oil that causes the rash and I was told this is the best way to get it off…SCRUB with soap. So far my husband and I have not gotten any and i run trails every Saturday (at least 11 miles but more often 15 to 20) and several times a week. Hope this helps.

  19. These days I feel so similar to last minute vs. advance plans. I used to be great about having advance plans – and I made tons of them. But now that we’ve had a kid (she’s only 9 months old) making advance plans almost always makes me want to say NO. (what if I’m exhausted??)

    On mother’s day we had organized a brunch picnic in the park with friends and we woke up to nasty weather so an hour in advance we moved the venue to our house. It was spontaneous and great – but had I planned it that way in advance it probably would have caused me stress! The spontaneity of it kept it enjoyable and low stress.

  20. I’ve always been a planner and even though I’ve only got 2 kids, we’ve been in the last-minute mode for over a year now. It really seems as though whenever I put something on an otherwise empty calendar, it becomes a magnet and I end up getting slammed with other commitments that week. I also hate to promise away my weekends – even one committed activity shapes the whole weekend. To satisfy my planning nature, I am making lists (ok, maybe it’s going to be more of spreadsheet) of things we can do this summer, and noting things like travel time required, free, advance purchase, indoor or outdoor, obligatory (e.g. a baby shower) and whether or not to invite friends along. I cannot do “this weekend we’re going to X, next weekend we’re doing Y” and not feel pressured. Also, it’s hard to manage the kid’s disappointment when they know plans in advance and then we have to make a change. Or making plans with other families and then we have to drop out or cut it short. I think this way I can look forward to activities because we will hopefully be doing them when they fit best.

    I also gave my 7-year old a rainbow-themed birthday this year. I called it her “Lucky 7” birthday with the 7 colors of the rainbow (although this weekend someone told me the color indigo has eloped with the planet Pluto! I have to re-learn this stuff!) Anyway, I made a 7-layer rainbow cake, found rainbow bagels for breakfast, rainbow wrapping paper, etc.

  21. Gabrielle,
    I’m curious what brought you to live in France for a while. A job? An adventure?
    I’m intrigued! :)

  22. What fun party themes! My daughter had a rainbow birthday for her 2nd, and it was fun to decorate – no pressure but can still impressive.

    Your summer sounds like a dream! We have lots of local plans, plus a short trip across the pond to northern England and Edinburgh. I can’t wait!

  23. Well, this couldn’t have been more appropriately timed! We’re having a rainbow party for my daughter turning 6 in 2 weeks! Please can you tell me where you got those awesome rainbow dot stickers?! What a fun activity! Thanks!

  24. Kate the Great

    Ever the curious one– here with yet another question:

    At the end of your party write-up, you have a photo of what looks like wooden party favors wrapped in ribbon. Clearly they’re associated with A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I haven’t read the books yet. What were the party favors?

  25. Natalie Masri

    Would you please share where you got your patio tables and benches from? I am looking for exactly that and can’t seem to track them down. Love them. My daughter wanted a rainbow party last year and we had so much fun with it. The best part was the color fight with Holi powder. Very memorable.

  26. This is a random comment in response to the random post, but I once read about raw goat’s milk (produced by goats that had been tied near poison oak or ivy) being the old fashioned “cure” for kids who were really sensitive to it. Now, I’m not suggesting this as an insensitive and impossible cure to your situation, heavens no! Just thought it was so interesting but never followed up to see if this was true in more people’s experiences or how this worked. If you find out before me, please share!

  27. I loved the themed parties, especially the rainbow one. But raw broccoli? Really? Did the kiddies eat that?

  28. I used to have a similar problem with poison ivy. I didn’t get it that often, but I was so miserable when I did. I researched and researched and found that the answer is FRICTION. If you have gotten the oil from poison ivy or oak on your skin, you have to use something textured like a wash cloth to get the oil off. Using a wash cloth alone is even more effective than soap. Scrub your whole body if you even suspect that you’ve gotten into poison oak or as soon as you see the evidence to keep it from “spreading”. There are scrubbing products sold for auto mechanics that do a great job of getting the oil off, such as this one.

  29. I absolutely love the events that took place during the party. I too am the same way when it comes to planning. Sometimes things work out better when you don’t have much time to plan. I.e. come up with ways to cancel your plans. :-) Love the random thoughts as well. I can’t wait to read more.

  30. I am glad to see I’m not the only one who just can’t put additional things on the calendar right now while juggling school, after school activities, work and work events, travel, religious commitments, etc. My happy place for family time or couple time right now is everyone getting something their favorite thing to read and piling on our bed. That is the most cozy, relaxing place for me and where I best like to spend time with my people right now. I love to look at my magazines while snuggling with someone I love who is also reading something they enjoy. Sometimes on early Sunday evening we’ll all get on our bed and read quietly until it gets too dark to see. ….I like the comment about still trying to put a few things on the calendar. I think that is a good balance. We need to have some friends over for dinner — as you said Gabby, it gets things done at my house when guests are coming.

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