May has been fun. Being a lifelong learner, I did several new things this month. I made my first Barbie Gown Cake. Ever since buying my Pampered Chef Batter Bowl many years ago, and hearing all the uses for it, I have wanted to try this. My son was into things such as Power Rangers, Buzz and Woody, and baseball. None of them are known for wearing ball gowns! But, my awesome art student, Lily, had requested that we try edible art. We created one of these cakes for her birthday. Neither one of us had ever done this before. I asked questions to others and watched lots of YouTube tutorials. I baked the gown cake at home and brought the decorating supplies. Turned out the Barbie was a bit too tall for the dress. We “fixed” it with some of the leftover cake, knowing our frosting would disguise the patched-up part. I showed Lily had to create a buttercream rosette with a star tip: squeeze the pastry bag, while making a small letter “e”. We mixed colors with food coloring gel, similar to when we mix paint colors. We did run low on frosting, so we made the decision to finish decorating her front, and leave the back primarily white icing from the crumb coat. She was still picture-perfect. We still created edible art and had fun! (And I was told it was tasty.) I had covered Barbie from the waist down in plastic wrap before putting her inside the cake. Clever Lily nicknamed her Princess Plastic Pants!!

It bothers me to hear about books getting banned. I read several banned books this month because I think inclusivity for children is important. The world is not made up of entirely straight, white kids who have a mother and father, we need more diversity in children’s literature. Seeing more and more people posting their pronouns, plus hearing about a variety of gender identities, I wanted to become more educated on the topic. The more information one gets, the more you can relate to and respect others who are different from you. Will a book convince a kid or teen to change their gender identity or sexual orientation? Of course NOT! It’s a parent or guardian’s job to teach these things. So, if you don’t want your child to read something, then don’t buy it or borrow it. It doesn’t mean you have the right to deny it to all others. By all means, talk to your kids. Even if it’s difficult. An easy-to-understand middle-grade book about transgender is Melissa by Alex Gino. Another recommendation is Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. A book I read this month that some people want to be banned is All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think. It’s a well-written memoir. Apparently, some parents freak out about the thought of having to explain homosexuality to their kids. Here’s a suggestion. I kept it simple when my son was young. He had questioned why Uncle Bill and Uncle Roger slept in the same bedroom. My answer was because they love each other. Like mommy and daddy. At first, he thought the whole idea was just weird. But he shrugged it off and said “whatever”. Remember, what is weird to you may be totally normal to someone else – and vice versa. A great quote from Johnson’s book is: “Adults who participate in homophobia create kids that do the same.” I’m glad I raised my son to be open-minded, open-hearted, and respectful.

The brilliance part pertains to Michelangelo. My son treated us to tickets for the Sistine Chapel exhibit in Tampa for Mother’s Day. It was great to see the various panels up close and personal – and with descriptions. I had the unique opportunity to see the real thing in Rome – when I wept at the sight of something so incredibly beautiful. Anything else pales in comparison to something so awesome. Yet it was terrific seeing details. His depiction of human anatomy is pure genius. They had an informational video at the beginning. I had already read most of the info. But maybe you haven't. I’ll list a few things that some people may not know: Although he’s known as simply Michelangelo, his family name was Buonarroti. For the vast majority of the time, he was standing up on scaffolding that he designed. It was a severe strain on his neck. Contrary to popular belief, he only painted while on his back for a very small percentage of the time. The Pope often tried to hurry him along, or check out his progress, which annoyed the artist. Once, the Pope disguised himself and was climbing up the scaffolding. Michelangelo knew it was him and started throwing things down at him to get him to stop his ascent! Ha-ha! He was so engrossed in creating his art, that he often didn't bathe for weeks. (Perhaps that was also to keep the Pope at a distance!) When first approached to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo declined. He considered himself a sculptor and thought that painting wasn’t as prestigious. As we now know, he was brilliant at both. Michelangelo proved that sometimes it’s great to get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s trying a new recipe or decorating technique. Or maybe reading a topic that you’re not an expert on, but curious about. Or tackling a tough subject with a child (or adult!).

Keep learning new things and getting out of your comfort zone, because life keeps bringing us new things – and not all of them are comfortable.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.”

– Jane Goodall, primatologist and anthropologist


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