7.29.2014

A PETER RABBIT GARDEN PARTY

Okay, are you ready?  This is the nearly a year in the making, three months delayed, almost did not happen this weekend, party of the century!  Well, maybe not party of the century, but at the very least, a celebration of life, growth, and family.  (Warning: copious photos follow)

Without further ado... 

BACKGROUND:  My son loves Peter Rabbit.  I wish I could say this is a result of my reading him all of the beautifully illustrated Beatrix Potter classics, however that is not the case.  My son loves Peter Rabbit because there is a new kids' cartoon featuring digitally animated characters, the "new adventures of Peter Rabbit."  It's a really cute show, and follows a lot of the original story line.  But, instead of delicate pastel rabbits eating radishes, there are a lot of brightly colored action scenes accompanied by a countryfied theme song that my son could sing you in his sleep.  I can dig it!  And, because my son's birthday is in the spring, I had this fabulous idea that it could be a garden party at one of our favorite city spots:  The Garfield Park Conservatory.

PLACE:  The Garfield Park Conservatory is a Chicago Park District gem that boasts one of the largest indoor gardens in the nation (not to mention, amazing outdoor gardens as well).  Best part?  It is free to visit year round, and has free parking!  I take my kids here all the time in the winter when the doldrums have set in.  The burst of lush green beauty is invigorating any time of year.  They have a children's garden with unique plants the kids can touch, a big slide, and all sorts of events throughout the year.  The room rental was nominal in cost, but had to be done waaaaaay in advance, due to the demand.  So, when I say I have been working on this little project for almost a year, that's the truth.  I jumped on the reservation as soon as I could.  (And then couldn't use it.  But that is another story you already know, and thanks to the wonderful people at the Park District, I was able to get it again this July).

Photo courtesy of Chicago Community Gardens



Please note my daughter's creative fashion sense: the bunny tail is in her hair and the ear barrettes are on her dress :)



PREP:  When you have three extra months to plan for a party you already put together, well, let's just say things can get a little crazy.  And by crazy, I mean, Pinterest and the craft store become your best friends, hahaha!  I had an absolute joy finding cute little touches to make with the kids, leading up to the party.  By far the pies de resistance was the carrot cutlery.  I mean... really?  Who has the time for this nonsense?  I do, apparently.  

Plain colored napkins and utensils: Target.  Green tub:  Dollar store.  The sign was made with scraps of construction paper, cardboard, and a white colored pencil.  

Bunny tails?!  Pinterest, why can't I quit you.  Easy and cute. 
"Party ears" instead of party hats came from the clearance easter section at Target awhile back.

Banner: Spritz.
I hit up Joann's spring clearance a couple days before the party and got a couple extra touches, all reusable.

GIFT BAGS:  I opted for these large-ish brown bags that come in a pack of 13 at Joann Fabrics.  Because there were some craft projects the kids would be taking home, I wanted them to have a big bag.  Also, yeah I kind of had to get them each a bunny in a watering can because, Peter Rabbit.

Peter Rabbit book, puzzle, and bunny sticker: Target.  It's amazing what you can find after easter is over and everything is on clearance.  Imagine my delight that they had Peter Rabbit stuff!  The garden creatures, bunny, and watering can: Dollar Store.

ACTIVITIES:  The main activity at the party was the garden itself.  Kids could play at their leisure.  Of course, I couldn't pass up some crafty things.  At one table, kids could plant something small.  At the other table, they could paint a miniature clay pot for their plant.  All of this was purchased either at the Target one spot or Joann's.  The paint, brushes, palettes, etc. are all my own, amassed after years of kid projects and such.  The garden project was actually quite clean and easy.  The dirt comes in a small pellet.  Just add water, stir, and place the seeds.  Great for small hands.





FOOD:  I am proud that for once, I did not order a pizza for delivery and call it a day (though I love pizza, and kids probably prefer it!)  Keeping with my theme (and also a budget), I made veggie trays.  Very simple, cost effective.  I added cheese, crackers, and hummus.  Of course we had cake, from the same local baker I always use.  She is amazing and can do any design.



Garden plates: Dollar store

Now, humor me, I have to digress about the table radishes.  First of all, have you seen the movie, "Best in Show?"  The part where Parker Posey goes nuts because they have to find their dog the "busy bee"?  So, these two yuppie dog owners are at the show and the dog loses its favorite toy, and Parker Posey (dog mom) has a bit of a meltdown because they can't find the exact toy.  Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid that the radishes = my busy bee moment.  Peter Rabbit's favorite food is radishes, a fact my son reminds me on the daily.  And I couldn't get the radishes because I spent all of Friday being sick.  And so I had this weird, obsessive thing about the perfect finishing touch, the radishes.  My husband offered to get them first thing Saturday morning, but, finally realizing how ridiculous I was being, I declined.  Moving on.

But my husband, being the thoughtful person he is, surprised me with a bunch of full-stem radishes from the farmer's market.  At which point I was already in full-on busy bee mode getting the kids out the door for the fiesta.  I saw the radishes and snapped.  "Honey!  I said I didn't want them!  That just makes extra work now, I have to prepare them.  No!"  (Yes, like most detail-oriented people, I can be such a pleasure sometimes...)  So, the dejected radishes disappeared and then reappeared magically as table decorations at the party.  My husband's great idea!  Lesson learned, sometimes it's okay to give up the reins and let someone else surprise you with their innovation.  (BUSY BEE).


And then, my favorite moment, the moment when my heart fills up with love and I get a lump in my throat.  It always happens in slow motion for me.  Everyone singing "Happy Birthday," I look around the room and see all of the friends and family we love.  And my little guy, his face glowing from the flame of the candle.  He blows it out and we all cheer.  Another year.  I know I go overboard with birthday parties, but I truly get excited about celebrating another year my babies are here.  My kids are the best part of my life.


Happy Birthday, little bunny.  Mom loves you.








7.27.2014

SUNDAY

To conclude an otherwise downer of a story:  I felt a little better, then a lot worse, then a trip to the hospital, which resulted in me feeling a lot better within the course of the following 12 hours.  I didn't miss my son's party because that's not an option.  THE END.
_________

If most people move predictably through the universal stages of grief, I tend to make jolting stops followed by tires peeling out, the top down, and my laughter in the breeze echoing just long enough until I make a screeching halt into the next stage.  It can't be good.  But I know no other speed.  

If denial and isolation are the first stop on grief road trip, then it follows I am approaching anger town.

(can't stop with the metaphors, sorry.  I could write a great R. Kelly song at the rate I'm going).

Denial is pretty easy for me.  I'm easily distracted by work, music, and sparkly things.  Anger, however, does not come naturally to me.  I was raised in a house where, if you had a tantrum about something, that was a good way to get ignored.  For better or worse, I learned to never throw tantrums.  Anger = waste of time.

It's interesting to reflect on this at a time in my son's life when we are teaching him how to manage his own anger.  There's a fine line between ignoring "bad" behavior and making someone feel invalidated.  No one wants to be a pushover, but as a parent, I'm also extremely attuned to and sensitive to the valid feelings of my kids.  I always let my son know it is absolutely okay to be angry, but there are healthy ways to express it.

---------

I guess you could say that the lack of control over  the "physical" right now,  can provoke some anger.  So I am expressing it, in the healthiest ways I know how: writing, running, pouring my heart and soul into my personal music projects.  Taking the energy of anger as it comes, because all of it is part of life, and life is good.  

That's all I got.  May you take a run this week and stomp out all of the imaginary monsters in your life.  Life is still so great, even when it hurts.








7.25.2014

FRIDAY

I would sit right here and have a good, old-fashioned cry if the act of crying didn't add to the knife-like pain in my abdomen right now.  It's back.  Whatever I did this morning brought the debilitating, wrenching stupid pain from my surgery back, and instead of cruising about my day being productive, I'm lying here screaming silently into my iphone.  Dumb!  I wish I could will my physical body to match my mental goals right now.  This too shall pass, it always does...

Warning: the foregoing is a drastic departure from my usual upbeat self.  If you don't want to read about how I feel in the pits of the bad times, read no further.

Go, go, go.  My life has been a whirlwind of new appreciation ever since this damn thing happened to me.  I love it, want all of it, want to hold my kids, play music, run around in court, advocate and activate... all is humming along well and then I am slammed so hard back into the spot that got me writing again in the first place:  pain.  A place of wrenching pain, both physical and emotional, that I simply can't deal with.  Yes, I have doctors and cancer mentors and a therapist and all of the support systems that are vital when coping with pain.  I'm in good hands.  But it doesn't take away the pain.  And the pain is getting me down right now, in a fundamental, physical sense.

I can't deal with it today.  I have all these plans this weekend, I have my son's birthday party which was supposed to happen three months ago, but three months ago I was having my insides removed, so this weekend it was.  It's not even about a little birthday party.  It's about life going ON.  I want it to keep going on!  I don't like these stops and starts.  I don't like committing to projects and then being told that "maybe it's just too soon... slow down... you are still recovering."  No. No no no no NO!  If you haven't noticed already, I don't take well to life being reminded, oh yes, you thought you were fine but you have cancer.  It left you in such a physical state that you'll never be the same again.  WHAT THE HELL. 

Just let me go one week without being in pain.  Just one.  Last week I was on vacation with my family, and we were in the most beautiful place, everyone happy, and yet I had a hard time pasting on a smile because I was in physical pain.  It's my good (past) fortune that I never knew what it was like to be in poor health.  I am active, athletic... the worst person to be told, "recovery may take awhile."  I think I will buck the system, I think I am different.  I'm not.  Still human, flesh and bones and a twisted up gut that doesn't like me anymore.

I have been trying to move on, push through, determined not to let this affect me.  It does sometimes, though.  Behind every fun and smiling moment is a reminder of pain, of not knowing what will happen in October when I get scanned again.  Living up my summer in a somewhat frantic fashion because it all seems fleeting.  And moments of true happiness that seem to violently shift into me lying in a fetal position in my bed, like right now, closing my eyes and wishing that when I open them up again, I look down and my insides are just like yours, and this was all a bad dream.

(EXPLETIVE).

I'm sorry.  I will be back in business soon, just like I always am.  Today, not having it though.  Gentle hugs to any and all people out there who have experienced the kind of pain that makes life seem unbearable.  All the more reason to embrace the good, the beautiful, the true, the stuff that makes you smile and laugh and feel alive.  Hope to be doing that really soon.