Introducing Nobody

My husband and I have a funny fascination with Japanese and Korean pop music (aka J-pop and K-pop). I’m not really sure why we are drawn to these, but we also love some wonderful Japanese dramas and are watching a funny Korean show called You’re Beautiful (about a girl who poses as a boy to save her brother’s job in a boy band, what’s not to love??). This is on Netflix, btw. Our favorite Japanese drama was called Haru to Natsu, and chronicles the story of two sisters separated by the Pacific Ocean and recaps their lives after they are in their 70s. It was one of the most emotional programs we have ever watched in any language. If you can find this program, it’s well worth the subtitles!

As for the music, the melodies are catchy, sometimes to the point of ear worm level, and videos have high production values. Here are some of our recent favorites.

Nobody by the Wonder Girls

Bubble Pop by Hyuna

Sugar Rush by AKB48

Stereo Girl by Super Baby Face

Heavy Rotation by AKB48

I My Me Mine by 4minute

Troublemaker by Troublemaker (Hyuna and JS)

 

Fairies

Melody continues to be fascinated by fairies and fairy gardens. Our outdoor garden is going to be demolished this spring due to some construction we are planning (both yay and boo), so this past weekend she picked up all her various fairies, houses, bunnies, benches, etc. But not to fear! We stopped by M&M Nursery in Orange for some nice indoor plants and moved the fairies inside!

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Fairy magic

You can see in this overview shot that Melody selected a palm, an African violet, some pink leafy things and a small evergreen (?) thing. I am not exactly the right person for naming plants, haha, but I can assure you that these were all recommended as able to thrive indoors. There’s a lot of detail in this garden, so let’s zoom in.

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Details, details

From the right side you can see the pink leafy things a bit better, the kitty keeping watch by the front door of the house, and the mailbox just waiting for a note. The pink fairy is holding a picnic basket. Is she heading out to meet a friend? There is a beehive on the far side so the violets will be well pollinated, and beyond that a small fairy boy swings over the side of the planter. The pebble path has captured some of the sparkly jewels that fall from the fairies when they fly past.

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A hidden garden in the miniature garden

True to their natures, these bunnies got into the vegetable patch, but Mr Dog spied them and they are scurrying away!

The captivating thing about fairy gardens is that the imagination can do so much with these tiny figures. As she created this vignette, I was thinking back to a mermaid garden I imagined and I wonder if I will be able to create that at some point. Melody has two books on fairy gardening, but there are many on the market with hundreds of clever bits and bobs to display along side your plants. If you ever find yourself in Orange, stop by M&M Nursery on Tustin Ave. They have many beautiful fairy gardens that are thriving, magical and oh, so creative! If you don’t live locally, you can shop their online store too.

Girl Scouts: Money Management Game

Our troop has grown a little this year and we have several new members who have not sold Girl Scout Cookies before. They are excited and so enthusiastic! It has really inspired some of our continuing members to step up their game and try harder to achieve their goals.

As a leader, it isn’t always easy to teach or lead the girls to cookie sales success. Especially for Brownies, they are still in the realm of needing to be lead to their goals to some degree. They are not always good at math. They don’t always grasp what Cookie Share is or does. They sometimes forget that we raise money for fun AND to give back to others. For our first meeting covering cookies, I made them a poster to help with some of the information they need to remember. We plan to use this at our booth sales and show a bar chart of our troop goal achievement.

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For our second meeting, I wanted to be sure they knew their math and money management. It’s easy to get confused when giving out change or having to count money, so while a parent would be helping during individual or booth sales, it is important for the girls to know this information. Fortunately for us, cookies are priced at a good multiplication factor – $5 per package. I found a game online that I adapted for the girls.

Money DiceCookie Game 1

Each of these images was printed on card stock paper, then cut out and taped together to make a 2″ square die. For our troop we focused on the cookie die. I also provided play money for each girl consisting of 2 5s, 2 10s, and 1 20. Here’s how the game worked:

  • Each girl gets an envelope of play money with $50 in it
  • Girls pair up by two and each pair gets one die
  • One girl plays a customer, the other girl plays a Girl Scout, and they switch back and forth
  • The customer rolls the die which will tell her how many of which variety of cookies she will purchase. The Girl Scout will tell the customer how much she owes. The customer pays the Girl Scout
  • Switch sides and the second girl plays the customer while the first girl plays the Girl Scout. Repeat the rolling of the die as above
  • Continue until one of the girls has earned all the money, or one girl does not have enough money to pay for the cookies on her roll. Money can be intermingled in the girl’s envelopes
  • The girl with the most money wins

We played this as a tournament – we had five pairs of girls, then the winners played each other. The girls loved the dice and so they were given out as prizes at the end of the meeting along with the play money. The girls learned visual recognition of the cookie varieties as well as reinforced their knowledge of common pricing in a selling situation.

The game can be expanded for older girls to use more money and to keep track of the number and type of cookies “sold” during the game. I feel really good about this game! Feel free to download the images and use them yourself. I didn’t make up the game, but I did adapt what I found online into something my girls could work with, you can too!

Gift Review: The USA Time Line 4D Puzzle

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A gift under the tree this year, this is a review of the USA History Over Time 4D Cityscape Puzzle model 40008, available from multiple retailers, including the National Geographic online store and 4DCityscape.com. The puzzle is intriguing, offering to teach first the order of westward expansion, then the order of statehood, and finally the great national landmarks in their order of creation or inception. The puzzle was a gift to Melody, but with 806 pieces in the base layer, she became frustrated and I did most of that part. The instructions say to organize the pieces by color and then put them together in the various territorial expansion. However, with Mexico and Canada being the same dang color, that was tricky, and as we all know, puzzles don’t always lend themselves to good organization! The edge pieces along Canada and the Pacific and Atlantic were often difficult to determine if they really matched and we took those sections apart numerous times during the assembly. We ended up working West to East on the puzzle because that’s just how the pieces presented themselves. Ocean was difficult, but we muddled through. The base puzzle has several different sizes and shapes of pieces, from large cross-shaped pieces to your standard small connectors.

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Once completed however, the base layer is beautiful and interesting. I didn’t remember the Gadsden Purchase and had not known the bit of land above the Louisiana Purchase had been ceded by Great Britain. Had this been the complete puzzle, I would have been satisfied. It took three or four days of an hour here and an hour there to complete. But, once the base layer is complete, there is a second layer of foam pieces in the shapes of the states. Users are directed to assemble these in the order of statehood, but that really didn’t work for us. We just put them together. :-) Melody was very involved at this point and was insistent on doing the assembly. The foam pieces for the most part are very sturdy except for very small states, such as Maryland with its skinny portion around the Bay and Alaska’s finger. These pieces easily became bent. There are four call-out sections for Delaware, Rhode Island, South Manhattan and Washington DC. The foam pieces were slightly warped in some cases, the larger the piece the more warped it was. I’m looking at you, Texas.

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The next series of pieces were the plastic landmarks to be inserted into the foam pieces. I have two gripes about this sequence.

First, the pieces are formed on the sort of plastic rails you find in model kits, which is fine. They are numbered according to the landmark poster included with the puzzle. Still fine. However, the font is so tiny as to be nearly indecipherable, and in some cases was not etched on the outside edge but inside the piece. This led to us needing a flashlight to first see inside the tiny figures and then hunt for the numbers. They are also not in any sort of organized collection, and I couldn’t really figure out why some were silver, some matte brown and some a bronze color. Weird. The Statue of Liberty is the only item that shipped separately and green. It goes without saying that one of our most recognizable landmarks needs no special instructions.

My second gripe about this section is that the poster offers no help in finding the location of the various landmarks on the puzzle. Yes, they are numbered on the poster and on the piece, but there is no number on the puzzle. The foam pieces have “placeholder” blocks in a beige color that are to be popped out and the plastic item inserted in place. The placeholders sometimes have an obvious shape (L-shaped buildings and round auditoriums, for example), but they are not numbered or named. Let me tell you, one lighthouse looks a lot like another when all you see are round dots in a sea of foam puzzle pieces lol. We ended up having to google many of the landmarks just to find out what state to search. With 93 landmarks, this part of the puzzle was both very interesting and very tedious. First searching multiple plastic rails numerous times since the pieces are not organized by number, then looking them up on google, then having to actually take the puzzle apart, remove the placeholder block, insert the item, then put the puzzle back together was a process. We ended up pulling out the landmarks for 10 items in a row, then placing them before starting over with the next 10. We placed the landmark on its corresponding picture on the poster.

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You can see that the names of some of these locations are sometimes rather mundane. I can’t tell you how many Old Grist Mills there are on google. The more we handled the foam pieces, the less tidy they were going together again. Some of the small tabs became mashed and wouldn’t lock into place after a while. One item just did not fit into the allowed space and we ended up accidentally tearing the surface paper forcing it through the hole. One casualty of the process of breaking out the landmark pieces was the Las Vegas sign. It broke in half unfortunately.

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The puzzle instructions also indicated that once the foam layer was made, it should be tacked in place using two sided tape. However, I do not recommend this at that stage. It was far easier to push the landmark pieces up from the back side of the foam pieces than mash them down through the top side. Plus, removing the placeholder blocks was at times a struggle because even though they were laser cut, they still had to be dug out of the larger piece, and some of those spots were quite small. The most effective way to remove the placeholder block and insert the landmark was by holding the individual state in our hands. This necessitated the constant disassembly of the foam layer of the puzzle. The kit did include some double sided tape, but it was so dried out it just flaked off its sticker sheets. Oops.

Even with all these sorts of nit picky complaints, we enjoyed this puzzle quite a lot. There are other 4D puzzles available for major cities worldwide, such as London, Paris and Tokyo. I think if we were to take on one of those other puzzles we would apply our learnings from this kit and probably be more satisfied. So, if you attempt one of these 4D Cityscape puzzles, I recommend the following order of assembly:

  1. Assemble the base layer by color but do the edges last.
  2. Organize the foam layer by regions but only assemble the pieces in general sections.
  3. Break out the landmark pieces and organize them numerically.
  4. Insert all the landmark pieces and then assemble the foam pieces into the top layer.
  5. Stick the foam layer onto the base layer if desired.

Christmas Memories

Some years ago, my sister gave me a box of photos from our childhood. As the keeper of the photos, she had access to them and I didn’t have many in my possession, so this was a very sentimental gift. They are mostly from Christmas, and so what a great time to share these memories with you. Our “new” house was built in 1972. We moved in just a month before my 4th birthday, so I was always able to quickly figure how long we’d lived there by subtracting 4 from my age.

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother would read to us from an original copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have it now and although it has seen its years, it is still in great condition. The story goes that Grammie Hennie went over to Montgomery Ward (a long defunct department store) and picked up a handful of copies. They gave them away for free as a promotional item. I assume she gave one each to her kids, but I have no idea if any remain…Steve? Carey? Anyway, as the book became more fragile, we were more careful with it, one year Kathy even carried it on a really fancy pink tufted pillow that she had. :-) Today we use a reprint.

Somewhere, packed among my photo things, I have all the Christmas cards that my parents sent out every year from the time Kathy was 1 or 2 until she was 21. They are a fantastic study of clothing through the seventies and eighties! I’ll try to find those and share them as well. Until then, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joy to all.

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Pattern Review: TV 447 1863 Sheer Dress

I have been sitting on this pattern for several years, all while sweltering in the summer heat. I purchased my fabric easily three years ago and have been wanting a sheer dress for probably five years. Summer in multiple layers of clothing is definitely more warm than it has to be! So, this past spring, I finally decided to just do it! I have researched various patterns available on the market, including some Big Three patterns, Peachtree Mercantile, and others, but I know that Truly Victorian makes beautiful, accurate, and easy to follow patterns, which is why I settled on this one.

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

Truly Victorian TV447 1863 Sheer Dress

I chose a lovely sheer cotton in blue and white stripes that I found on clearance at a chain store. I know of more than one person who has made a sheer of this fabric. Hopefully we won’t all be at the same event together!

Pretty pretty

Pretty pretty

The fabric is 54″ wide, but since at the time I didn’t know what pattern I would be using I purchased 10 yards. Lucky for me, this overestimation was a good one. The sleeves on this dress are full and wide, plus since my fabric was directional, I was able to cut the stripes going from shoulder to wrist. Anyway, before any of that, I calculated my measurements and pattern size following the instructions on the pattern. The thing about the TV patterns is they allow you to custom fit your garment before you even start sewing. And once you do that, you can easily make up a muslin for a better idea on fit.

Dark image of my muslin

Dark image of my muslin

Sorry this is not better quality, but almost all the mirrors in my house that are big enough are impacted by light diffusion. What I learned here is that the waist of the under bodice was a little too full but the bust was a pretty good fit. So I took in the darts a bit and retested it. I did not do this all by myself, by the way. I submitted my questions to the Civilian Civil War Closet group on Facebook for hints and help – there are clothing historians, professional seamstresses and experienced clothiers there who are willing to help for free. I just couldn’t overlook that knowledge base. I also asked my friend Shelley Peters for real world tips as she has made this pattern a lot. Had I needed it, the amazing Heather McNaughten at Truly Victorian would have helped too. As an aside, this just confirms for me that this community really wants its members to succeed!

Anyway, after the changes to the muslin, I traced that as my new under bodice pattern piece and went forth to sew! This is the first time I have made my own bias and bias piping, which was used on the neckline facing and armscyes. I found the instructions sufficient, but had used better instructions on a Simplicity costume pattern and did that instead. They just made a bit more sense to my thinking, the result is the same.

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Piped facing to finish the raw edges of the under bodice.

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Piped armscye

The construction of the garment is for the most part very easy. I found the TV method of inserting the sleeve into the armscye backwards to what I am used to so I just adapted and made notes on the pattern.

Hand buttonholes

Hand buttonholes

I sewed this in a combination of machine and hand sewing. My fabric was so very delicate that even though I have a high quality machine, it sometimes would bunch up in the feed dogs. I wound up hand sewing much of the finishing stitching, such as on the piped facings, and also hand sewed all the button holes. My reasoning here was twofold – I wanted historically accurate buttonholes and since the fabric was so delicate it was impossible for me to machine sew them to the standard I desired. I used silk thread for the buttonholes. The buttons are vintage shell buttons, much higher quality than the cheap flaked mother of pearl available these days. They were purchased through Farmhouse Fabrics.

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Sleeve band

For visual interest I cut the sleeve band on the bias. Maybe there is a chance of this stretching over time, but the band is so generous around the wrist that I don’t expect that to happen.

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Finished bodice

At this point, I went back to the Civilian Civil War Closet for help. The pattern does not include a collar pattern. I don’t care for my look without a collar, so I googled for tutorials. The best suggested laying the pattern pieces for the bodice front and back together as though they were sewn, then tracing the curve from center front to center back, next extending that to a simple collar width. I did that, but found mine to be fluttery and off. The amazing Liz Clark of the Sewing Academy helped me immensely with tips on how to correct this and redraft the collar. I’m delighted to say that I was successful!

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Finished collar

I added the fine tatted lace which I purchased at Farmhouse Fabrics.

Next, waistband finishing. Since my fabric is 54″ wide, I didn’t want to cut it down to  four 40″ panels to follow the TV skirt instructions. I retained the selvages as was done in historical garments, and used three panels instead of four. The skirt has a very deep pocket at the center left where the skirt pieces overlap with the waistband. Each panel was cut to the same length, but since your skirt front and skirt back are different lengths, there has to be a way to do this without cutting your fabric. Again, drawing on the Closet knowledge, I did as was suggested and folded over the waist edge of the fabric. This gave added stability to the fabric as well as achieving the lengths needed. The pattern instructions have you cut your fabric at the waist to the desired angle which will give you your length. I don’t recommend that on a sheer just because of the off chance of it tearing.

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Waist inside

You can see in this very amateurly photoshopped picture the angle of the folded-over fabric. This is center back where the skirt is a bit longer than in the front.

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Double box pleats

For the skirt attachment, the pattern gives you liberty to choose your preferred pleating or gathering method. Here I am showing you the double box pleats I used to pleat the skirt onto the waistband. Originally I had knife pleated the front and cartridge pleated the back, but I didn’t get enough fabric taken up in the front. So I went to the double box pleats in front and cartridge pleats in back. I’m quite happy with this look as it’s smooth and polished.

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Yes that hem is hand stitched

I wanted to make sure that the hem folded straight up so the lines didn’t go off kilter, so I ended up hand sewing the hem. I used a single thread and every fourth stitch went through all layers. Every 8th stitch was taken twice to keep the thread from coming undone if it were to break for any reason. If you kept up with my thinking on the skirt width, you will realize that’s a 178″ hem. It took me a couple hours to do it.

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Picture taken by an 8 year old

This is the finished dress, although it’s not the best picture of me lol. I’m looking down toward my daughter haha. Also, I realize that I must not have been laced as tightly in my corset as usual because I couldn’t fasten the waistband correctly. I wasn’t going to mess with it today and I’m certainly not taking the dress apart, so I’ll have to lace better next time.

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Side image

Here you can see the under sleeve just below my shoulder. This makes the dress very cool and airy. I had considered adding a silk stripe down the sleeve for interest, but I decided against it as it might weigh down the fabric. I may make a belt, as the silk I have is the exact color of the darkest stripe in the fabric.

You can also see the shadow of my petticoat under the skirt. I have an eyelet petticoat with two large pleats in it. This isn’t an historically accurate petticoat and someday I will make a plain cotton one, but for now this is quite pretty.

Overall I am thrilled with the result of the Truly Victorian TV447 Sheer Dress pattern. The instructions were easy, but true to the sewing techniques available to our ancestresses. It is not a pattern for a beginner, certainly, but if you have some knowledge of sewing, you can make this pattern truly customized to your preferences. If at times the instructions don’t make sense, just take them one sentence at a time. My mother told me when in doubt just do what the instructions say. These patterns will not take you down the wrong path, trust them and you will get something incredibly beautiful. And of course, email them, ask your friends who have made the pattern, or google for help. Truly Victorian patterns are very popular due to them being among the best on the market today, so lots of people make them! I am eager to wear this dress to one of our hottest events coming up soon, Huntington Beach Civil War Days.

Links & Resources

Truly Victorian

Farmhouse Fabrics

Civilian Civil War Closet

Sewing Academy

Huntington Beach Civil War Days

Dance like everyone is watching

Melody Dance 2015 4 - W Melody Dance 2015 3 - W Melody Dance 2015 1 - W Melody Dance 2015 -W

The fussing over whether she will wear make up is over – the only girl in the universe who can’t wait to take off her lipstick has completed her dances for Impact Dance Center to the overwhelming pride of her parents! After dropping ballet because it was too boring, Melody successfully completed her lessons in tap dance and jazz dance. And, we were delighted to discover she was performing both dances in only one show – last year she was in two shows, necessitating tickets to both. Mom & Dad, Gramma & Papa and Auntie thoroughly enjoyed our tiny dancer’s shining moments in the spotlight!

Going out on a flagpole

Since I don’t get much traffic, I’m hoping no one will find this and be offended for no other reason than to be offended.

I have been thinking a lot about the whole Confederate Battle Flag kerfuffle. I understand the history of the flag. I understand that after the war, it pretty much fell out of use for 100 years. I understand it became popular in the 1960s as a symbol of rebellion against the American Civil Rights movement.

I see the masses rushing to condemn the flag now, because of the actions of Dylann Roof, a crazy-assed murderer. The thing about the knee-jerk reaction of banning the flag is that if Dylann Roof had waved a flag with the McDonald’s golden arches on it, would we be banning that flag? Of course not, because that is ridiculous.

But the flag of the Lost Cause has a lot of romanticism attached to it, in addition to it having been the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the war was lost in the south, people are proud of their ancestors who participated in that war. There is a feeling that their ancestors fought for what they thought was right. I don’t understand that thinking, because the southern states very clearly stated in their Articles of Secession that they wanted to preserve the institution of slavery… But, I am digressing from my original point.

The flag fell out of use after the war. For almost 100 years, it was the flag of the lost cause and nothing more. The two sides managed to reconcile and become one nation again, the Union which Abraham Lincoln wanted to preserve. But there was tension simmering under the surface and you can take a college course that covers just a few moments in time during the 1960s and still not learn all there is to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. This is when the contemporary use of the flag became popular. It has been around for my entire life and more, and enough people are used to seeing it that they think it has been proudly flying over rebel households for 150 years. It hasn’t.

While I think most people associated the flag with a sort of ambiguous concept of “the south” I don’t know of anyone who thought the flag represented slavery or dominion of whites over all others. That sort of thinking is better symbolized by the Nazi flag.

My biggest frustration with this whole thing is not stores pulling the flag from their inventory, or states determining that it represents negative state sponsored speech. My frustration is that if this is such a horrible flag, with so much negativity attached to it, why didn’t anyone between 1960 and two weeks ago make any comment about removing it?

Brownie Court of Awards Ceremony

Once again, I am sharing the script of our troop’s ceremony because although I found many work plans on how to create a Court of Awards ceremony, I didn’t find an exact script or agenda, and I need a agenda. Remembering these are Brownies, their idea of planning an awards ceremony is to determine whether they have chocolate or vanilla cupcakes, what song they want to sing and whether they will do the hand motions during the song. While girl led, there is still a lot of leader planning. We wanted to make them feel proud of their participation and accomplishments during the year. Also, due to the late arrival of cookie awards, we decided to hold them for the awards ceremony.

Please feel free to use the script below as you like for your Court of Awards. Inspiration has been found in many places but ultimately, busy leaders might need something simple they can plop down into their own setting. We happen to have three leaders, but this can be adapted to any number of leaders. The portion on the Law can also be adapted to your needs – we decided to work on each girl fully memorizing the Law and when they were able to recite it during a meeting, they were awarded with the cute ELF doll available from Council. Our final two girls earned their doll during the awards ceremony.

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Explore, take Action and Fly!

Once our awards and patches were organized by girl, we laid them out on the table to make it easier for the leader making that portion of the presentation. Each item is stapled to the 2″ wide grosgrain ribbon and the girl’s name is written at the top. The girls loved these and they looked great holding them up in photos too!

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Look at all the awards!

 

Brownie Troop 345 Awards Ceremony

Girls form up in a horseshoe in the front of the room.

[Leader #1] Today, we will be presenting the girls with awards they have earned this year through their hard work and dedication to Girl Scouts. But before we get to the awards, we will begin with our Pledge of Allegience and Promise.

Pledge

Promise

Song – The more we get together

[Leader #2] During the year, the girls have been working on memorizing the Girl Scout Law and reciting it on their own for a prize. Tonight, two girls will recite the Law so that they can receive their special ELF doll. Girl Name and Girl Name, please come forward.

Law

Learning the Law is a great accomplishment, and we are very proud of all the girls for learning it and being able to recite it in front of their peers! Congratulations!

[Leader #1] During the year we brought in a new member, Girl Name, who we would like to recognize tonight. Girl Name has been looking for a Girl Scout troop for a long time, and we are so proud to have her as one of our Girl Scout sisters. She is excited and energized to learn all about Scouts and the fun activities we will take on together! Welcome!

[Leader #3] As you all know, some of the fun results in patches, awards and prizes! So, without making you wait any longer, we will now present the girls with their awards. As I call your name, please come forward.

Girl Name

Girl Scout Handshake

Girl Name, although you are new to our troop, you bring with you enthusiasm and friendship, and although you joined after our cookie sales, you have earned your membership star, arts and crafts fun patch, end of year fun patch and a special friendship patch.   Congratulations!

Girl returns to her spot

Girl Name

Girl Scout Handshake

Go in order of who has the lowest to the highest sales of cookies.

Girl Name, with your participation this year, you have earned your membership star, the Cookie Sales pin, the [list out the names] badges, and [list out names] fun patches. Your cookie sales were outstanding, selling _____ packages of cookies. You have earned the patches for your vest as well as [whatever cookie bling]. Congratulations on an amazing year!

Girl returns to her spot, continue until all awards have been distributed.

Song – When’ere you make a promise

[Leader #2] We will close our Awards Ceremony now, but the celebration will continue. We have refreshments for the girls [and any parents who stayed]. Congratulations, Troop 345! You have had an awesome year!

Fight Like A Girl

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just touches your heart? Many of us are fortunate to meet a few people like this in our lifetimes. A spouse, a bestie (<3 TH!!), a boon companion, someone who just gets you on many levels. The sensation of depending on that person for moral support, sharing hilarious moments, trading silly gifts and cards because you saw something at 9:37 p.m. at the drugstore while on a beer-and-tampon-run and you just had to get it. Sometimes the best part is their reaction to these random interjections into life. One of my favorite things to do when shopping with my bestie is to pick out inappropriate outfits and completely seriously ask her opinion, because I know every time she is going to laugh and roll her eyes at me.

Just imagine if you met a whole group of people like this. There are lots of places for moms to meet up – MOPS, church groups, PTA moms, sports moms, etc. and dads have lots of similar venues. The parents all bond over some shared aspect of life and from that, you build a group of friends you can count on to share life’s victories and sorrows, the mundane and the spectacular. Support from like minded people – whether it be at an AA meeting or friends from college – I believe, is crucial for humans to feel connected, balanced, and whole.

Now imagine that you met this wonderful group of people online. These days, it isn’t so far fetched as it used to be. When I was first on the internet, it seemed unlikely that I would actually connect with people in such a way as to think of them as *actual* people. They were user names that sometimes made me laugh and cry. Years later, I would meet the man of my dreams through an online dating website, so I knew there were real people behind those names and many of them were a lot like me – looking for connections in a society that can make it difficult to meaningfully connect with others.

When I was pregnant with Melody 9 years ago, I was looking for an online support group. After trying several that were highly recommended, I found one at an unlikely site – babyfit.com. I am not a health nut. I do not run marathons. I am not really the poster child for a super healthy adult, so a fitness website seemed like a stretch for like minded people. I took a chance though, and joined the due date club February 2007. Our early posts tracked our progress in our pregnancies. As we faced the challenges of gestational diabetes, scary ultrasounds, and hormonal mood swings, it became easy to talk about marital issues, personal triumphs at work, the achievements of older children, the fears of some of our military mamas…we bonded over the pregnancies, but became friends over everything else.

Years passed and we moved our group to Facebook. Suddenly those anonymous screen names became real names, real people, with lots of dimensions! We planned meet ups, talked on the phone, Skyped, texted….we became 2D friends. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these women in person. They are more than just the women from my due date club. I check in on them daily, have daily conversations with many of them, dream of meeting many more. We are what I recently described as an “international group of crazy people” who love each other fiercely, madly, deeply and whole heartedly. For 9 years now, we have been a force of nature, 60-some women making our ways in life with the full knowledge that no matter what happens, we have 60-some girlfriends to back us up, prop us up and cheer us on. We have weathered the death of a child, ugly divorces, cheating husbands, and painful betrayals, but we continue to be strong somehow, bringing love and friendship every day.

This is getting long, I’ll try to get to the point, but it’s painful and I don’t really want to.

About two years ago, one of my friends was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her name is Claire. At the time, she was given chemotherapy and radiation treatment. We pulled our jaws off the floor and united in supporting her. One of our husbands created a logo for our group. One of our women wrote an amazing poem about the strength of our bond. Many of us created quilt squares which were put together by another member, then shipped to England where Claire lives, and she was able to wrap herself in a virtual hug from all of us around the world as she struggled through the difficulties of her treatments. We fundraised so her family would not have to worry about groceries, clothing, holiday gifts, whatever. At that moment, we became the 60-woman family behind that small unit of 6 people in England. She named her tumor Mo and we all chanted “Mo is going down.” We changed our Facebook profile photos to our logo to show her visually how much we support her. And, after her treatments revealed that Mo was gone, caput, shrunk so small as to be undetectable, we rejoiced! Claire had done it and we had played a tiny part! The power of friendship carried us over into a sense of invincibility. We said “fight like a girl!” and she got that shit done!

Recently, however, she has been feeling pain in her back, lower abdomen, and other places. She’s been bugging her doctor about it and they finally set up a CT scan to see what is happening inside. It isn’t pretty. Mo is gone, yes, but his cousin is in her abdomen pressing on her kidneys, and his son is in her lymph nodes. Because of the placement of the mass in her abdomen, it is inoperable. Because cancer cells in the lymph nodes opens the door for the cells to travel through the whole body, the prognosis is grim. I have not seen my group go so shocked before. For a moment of stunned silence, there was a collectively stopped heart. It is hard to describe what that feels like when you realize it is happening in many time zones across the Earth.

And then, then this force of nature, this international group of crazy people, we all sprung into action. We have been brainstorming how we can help, because honestly when you live 5000 or more miles away, there is no popping over to help with the laundry or taking the kiddies out so Claire can rest, but it is in our very nature to want to help. We are all moms, you see, and we kiss skinned knees and soothe hurt feelings when friends say something mean. We decided that the way we can help right off the bat is to make it so the “Redfraggle” family (their cute nickname for themselves) can concentrate on being together, making memories that will last forever, and not have to worry financially. Do they want to take the kids out for ice cream at 11:30 Tuesday morning? So be it! Shall they go on a driving trip to their favorite place? Off you go. But we aren’t made of money either. If we all pitch in together, maybe we can make those memories easier to happen.

We have started a YouCaring page. YouCaring is different from GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites because they only charge the processing fee (rather than other sites that take up to 10% of the donation amount in fees) and they allow international currency. Because we have people in France, England, Australia, South Africa, Japan, America and Canada, we really need an international program! :-) perhaps you might like to help a little bit, too. It doesn’t need to be much, that is the beauty of crowdfunding – if 100 people gave $5, pretty soon we’d have $500. I hope that this essay has not been so long you have stopped reading. It is very difficult to convey just how much this special lady means to our group, and to me personally. Her son and my daughter were born on the same day. We are the same age. We have had similar struggles in life but still manage to come out with a smile and a laugh for others. She is kind and caring, with a beautiful spirit that is uplifting and warm. She is my friend and not enough people in the world have had the opportunity to be blessed with meeting her.

If you feel so moved, please click the group logo below to jump over to the YouCaring site and make a donation. It will mean four children will have their mother with them a bit longer and a man will have the love of his life by his side at night. Thank you.

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Click to go to YouCaring