We're celebrating Pioneers again here in Utah, and in honor of one of my favorite pioneer stories, I'm sharing a game I made for my kids a few years ago.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, when Pioneer settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they planted crops hoping for a harvest in time for that first winter.  Just before harvest, an infestation of crickets descended on the crops, devouring everything.  These were not average crickets - they were huge, menacing, rotten things and their role in this historical plague earned them the nickname "Mormon crickets," forever after.  Despite all their efforts, the settlers could not save the harvest and were about to despair when flocks of seagulls came out of nowhere - eating the crickets and saving the crops.  It was called the Miracle of the Gulls and is the reason the seagull is the Utah State bird even though the state is landlocked.  Neat, eh?

For Pioneer Day, I made a "fish pond"style game with the magnet in the seagull's beak enabling it to "eat" the metal parts on the crickets, made out of clothes pins. My kids love it - and it's a favorite whenever I bring it to Primary, so I'm sure you want one of your very own.

The crickets are super fun to make, even if you don't make the rest of the game.  The kids had a blast making these!  Paint the clothes pins black.  You could probably spray paint for speed, but my kids LOVE to paint, and I enjoyed the character it gave my bugs to have imperfections in the coverage.

For eyes, glue metal BBs in place.  This took me awhile to figure out what to use because I wanted buggy looking eyes, but I also wanted to provide a metal that would be attracted to magnets so that the seagull would have a surface to grab onto.  BBs worked perfectly and look a little bit creepy, while being highly magnetic.  Hot glue worked fine, but after losing a few BBs, I reinforced with E6000 and haven't lost a BB since (3 years of hard play...)

For legs, cut two pieces of chenille stem.  Back leg piece is 8 inches. Front leg piece is 4 inches.  Thread the chenille stem legs through the holes in the clothes pin and glue in place at center.  Wait to shape legs until antenna are inserted.

For antenna, cut a piece of black craft wire anywhere from 5-7 inches long. (Different lengths give different personalities).  Thread through the front clothespin hole with the front leg chenille stem and put a little more glue in there to keep it in place.    Hot glue works fine here.
With a pair of needle-nose pliers, round ends of wire into little circles.

Shape antenna into curls, cross them, keep them straight - whatever you think looks buggy.

Shape legs by bending at the knee and again to form a foot.


The concept of the seagull is a simple softie - by which I mean it's made out of felt and not turned inside out.  I don't know if that's the exact definition of softie, but that's what I think of when I hear that term.  So simply cut out the body and wing tip pieces.  Tack wing tips to top side of body.  Then with wrong sides together, topstitch all the way around, leaving an opening for stuffing. (note: the neck is the hardest part to stuff, so I suggest leaving the opening somewhere around the neck instead of trying to get stuffing through that narrow channel.)  Also leave open between dots on pattern at the top of the head, indicated on pattern, to insert the beak.

For the beak, I used bright yellow lycra - simply because I had some on hand.  I recommend any fabric thin enough to allow the magnet to do its thing.  Cotton or poly would be fine.  Fleece or Felt might be too thick.  Cut the beak piece and fold along line, right sides together.  Sew along edges, leaving top open, using the tiniest seam allowance possible.  Turn right sides out.  Insert a high-powered magnet.  I used a magnetic rock my son got in a set of magnetic rocks.  It works ok, but I'd like a stronger one if I can find one.  If you need stuffing to fill out the beak, add it, but make sure that the magnet stays at the tip of the beak with no stuffing blocking the magnet.
Insert the beak into the opening at the top of the Seagull head and topstitch across opening, between dots indicated on pattern.  Depending on how uptight you are about this whole process, you can either topstitch through all layers, closing off the beak opening, or you can hand-stitch around the circle of where the beak joins the head to keep the beak more dimensional.

I glued on googlie eyes for silliness, because kids giggle over googlie eyes.  If I had my druthers I'd embroider some eyes with personality and pizazz, but hey - googlie eyes rock too.

To Make & Play the Game:

The Seagull must be attached to a stick in order that it may "fly" - then it's just like a fishing pole.  Any broomstick or dowel will work. I happen to have a leg from a three legged table that is perfect for stuff like this. In fact, you'll notice that my seagull is only pinned and not permanently attached - that's because I have multiple versions of "fishing" games, and all of them use this same table leg with an excellent piece of string strongly knotted to the screw at the top.  The seagull gets attached for Pioneer Day, using a safety pin, then goes into storage :)  You could make a more permanent toy by sewing the string to the seagull body and knotting it to your stick.

To play, I like to start with telling the story of the Seagulls & the Crickets, using a dollar store green plastic table cloth to represent the crops.  This keeps the field of play defined.  On the bottoms of the crickets are stickers.  When I use these for Singing Time, the stickers have song numbers on them and the cricket "eaten" shows what song to sing.  For fun, the stickers can tell the child a prize they've won, or an activity they have to do (i.e. 10 jumping jacks).  HINT: The magnet grabs 3 things on the cricket - the eyes, the metal wire in the chenille stem legs, and best of all, the spring that constructs the clothespin.  Those are the best targets.  The wire antenna were rather disappointing as far as magnetic attraction goes.  They look great though, so that's something!  And sometimes they'll hook the felt, and I say that counts too. :)

Happy Pioneer Day, and Have Fun!!
RED2, PG-13
RED2 is a classic caper film, despite being an action/spy movie.   It aspires to be in the ranks of such action comedy quirk films as The In-Laws (1979).  And as far as that goes, it hits closer to the mark than the first film.  The first RED was a little too serious (with too much screaming Mary-Louise Parker)  to be as much fun as it could be, and seemed to want to be.  RED2, right from the opening sequence, is light on its feet and more fun.  Though the theme is still Retired Extremely Dangerous, the emphasis on RETIRED, or should I say, OLD isn't played so heavy handed, which is a relief.  Overall, the second film maintains most of the original charm of the first film, while improving by identifying that its primary role is humor.  That being said, it's not perfect.

RED2 finds our main characters of Frank (Bruce Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) already under threat again despite Frank's efforts to live a normal life. ("Normal" apparently means buying in bulk at Costco, in an opening sequence designed to delight middle America).  If you haven't seen RED, you may be a tad lost going into RED2, but you should orient pretty quickly. Bruce Willis is still tough as
nails. John Malkovich is, well, John Malkovich - and no one else could ever deliver a line in exactly the same way.  Mary-Louise Parker is too cutsie for my taste, but is given way more material and is more enjoyable than in the previous film as she asserts herself and has more of an active role. Hijinks ensue, and characters both familiar and new become embroiled in the plot - to varying degrees of success.  Catherine Zeta-Jones joins the ranks as - of all the unbelievable casting faux-pas oddities - a Russian agent.  I'm sorry, I've liked her in other parts, but I could play a lot more convincing Russian than she does!  And her chemistry with Bruce Willis fizzles rather than sizzles.  I had to agree with Mary-Louise Parker when she repeatedly asked, "when can we get rid of her?"

The brightest new addition is Korean actor Byung-hun Lee.  His action sequences are stellar, and his dry, sardonic delivery adds a much needed counterpoint to the affected cuteness of the rest of the characters.  Despite the fact that my husband kept saying, "Go Stormshadow!" every time he came on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed his role and found myself cheering for him even when I wasn't supposed to be!

My greatest criticism of RED2 is how self-aware the film and actors are throughout.  Let me explain it this way; any parent knows that toddlers do and say the craziest things.  What makes those things amusing is that the toddler has no idea that she is being silly.  An older sibling, seeing the parent's joy over toddler's quirky behavior, will mimic that behavior himself, watching his parent out of the corner of his eye for a reaction.  Even if the behavior is cute, it isn't as endearing as what the toddler did because the older child knows that what he is doing is silly and he is doing it for a reaction.  He is self-aware.  That's the way I felt about this film.  It was fun and quirky and cute, and the whole time the actors and director were watching the audience out of the corner of their eyes wondering, "are they seeing me? Are they seeing how adorably hilarious I'm being? Cause I'm REALLY adorably hilarious."  And the looks on their faces when they ask this are as follows: Mary-Louise Parker - doe eyed innocent schoolgirl; Bruce Willis - pursed lipped, twinkle eyed, "I'm such a cad"; John Malkovich - eyebrows raised, "who, me?" caught-with-his-hand-in-a-cookie-jar.  Why? Because those are the expressions they wear for a good percentage of the film - in too many indulgent cameos. The film was fun, but I don't think it was nearly as fun as the actors and director thought it was making it.

Overall, I give RED2 snaps for humor and wit in a time when most comedy relies on skank and snark. It could have been less affected about it, but I would still say it's worth seeing.  (Especially for the 50+ crowd.  Not sure why, but the half of the theater in that demographic were WAY more engaged, belly laughing throughout and raving through the credits.  I liked it, but they LOVED it.  So if that's you, I definitely recommend it!)

Pacific Rim is the movie that the generation of Power Rangers and Voltron was destined to make.  In fact, there were moments I could swear I heard the theme songs of one or the other of those icons of childhood dramatic conflict ringing through the colossal robot-on-giant-monster battle scenes.
Don’t mistake this as criticism, however.  I think that my experience was precisely the foundation the movie’s makers hoped for – and needed.  This age has gone past ripe to decadent with the robot and/or alien-monster genre, and rather than try to pretend a fresh approach, Pacific Rim embraces every trope, every motif from just about any and every predecessor.  And by reveling in everything from Iron Man to Godzilla, with nods to Independence Day, Men in Black, Transformers and even Top Gun along the way, the film ends up being both a roaring good time and eye-rollingly predictable. 

So whether Pacific Rim bores or thrills you is going to depend entirely on your state of mind rather than on the film itself; is it cliché or is it homage? In one perspective, the stale acting, predictable scenes and “copying” of predecessors in the genre can make the whole thing feel like been-there-done-that… only with epic levels of destruction and gorgeous visual value.  But on the other side, which is the way I experienced it, the aping of other apocalyptic alien monster movies and tv shows is tribute, camp in some instances, and in that spirit, I ate it up. It felt somewhat nostalgic while being a new story.  And though, with a few exceptions, the acting was just about a step above Power Rangers, I let myself get sucked in.  I especially enjoyed the pairing of the characters of the hipster geek scientist with an old fashioned traditional nerd scientist. Lame, dorky good fun! 

So let’s get to a simple no-spoilers plot overview.  The film hits the ground running – which I love.  If you're going to do action, start with ACTION!  Giant alien monster, Kaiju, attacks earth, but from a
dimensional rift, not from a ship in the stars.  Very Godzilla footage.  More monsters follow, so a new form of weapon – a suit of armor (can we give Tony Stark any credit here?) – is built to engage the enemy.  This suit is so complex it needs two pilots to make it function (Go Voltron Force!  “...and I’ll form the head!”  Trust me, you’ll hear that, every time they deploy the robots the way they shoot these scenes).  More monsters – more robots – more monsters… I won’t give away
any more of the fight-to-save-the-planet, against-all-odds, root-for-the-underdog, all-we-need-is-a-rousing-“not this day”-speech, film.  I will say that this is one of the few movies I think is a must see in Imax.  I normally do not enjoy 3D, but this one is done beautifully in Imax 3D - and if you don't 3D, at least the bigger the screen the better. The entire point of the movie is the eye candy of the awesome robots and detailed monsters. 

On a side note, I was so refreshed by the minimal bad language in Pacific Rim.  I know it is violent, so many will still keep kids away, and it’s scary, so go right ahead.  But it is almost like animated violence since it is robots vs outlandish monsters – Power Rangers style.  Splitting hairs, maybe, but still…  Anyway the language was one of the cleanest I’ve experienced in a long time from any rating, and it felt great!  I’m sure a few slipped by me without my noticing, especially from one particular character – a blackmarket scoundrel - but the expletives were MORE rare throughout, and I think that shows thoughtfulness, knowing much of the audience will be younger.  As a mom, and as an intelligent person who prefers a variety of words, well done!

All in all, the film is a geek’s dream in so many details – the particular brand of humor, the homage to other works, the flawless digital effects.  But if you’re not a geek, just don’t take it too seriously; roll your eyes at the poorly delivered lines and predictable plot and then ENJOY the action and opulent graphics – it’s a summer movie, not an Oscar contender!
I chose the name Living in Lilliput for my blog because of the story of Gulliver on the island of little people. Lilliput, in my definition, is the land we parent-giants must negotiate among the miniatures and their accessories.  Just as that experience evolves and I learn about what Lilliput is,  I feel the time has come for an evolution of this blog.

Months ago I attended a media movie screening my husband has access to through his job in radio, where I noticed I was the only woman in attendance.  The imbalance was obvious enough to be the topic of preview conversation among the other critics, who laughed about how there are no “serious” female critics in Utah, only those “silly bloggers” who use their credentials to get in to the Twilight films.  Having a strong background in analysis (ask my poor husband, who has to endure a 20 min deconstruction of every film we’ve ever attended, EVER), I felt a gauntlet had been thrown down and I’ve chewed on the idea of being the one to take it up.  Critics have to have thick skins though, and I’m not sure I can go there.  I’m still worrying the idea like a dog with a bone.  And I'm posting my first movie review later today....  yikes. 

On another topic, I’ve had people from different parts of my life ask if I would write down the story of my somewhat unique fitness journey.  This also intrigues me, though it opens up a personal side of my life that is frightening to make so public.

And so I started planning the launch of a fitness blog, AND a movie/lifestyle blog, and I wondered and debated with myself about what to do until one day, as I was redesigning the header for this blog, my blog which I’ve written for years about being a mom, that I don’t need several blogs.  My life isn’t several lives – though it is often a strange combination. (I wondered one day, as I was sewing a pioneer dress what Matt & Kim, with whom we’d hung out backstage at their concert the night before, would think of my coolness factor if they could see me at my sewing machine!) Living in Lilliput contains precisely everything I want to write about. Yes, the craft stuff, but also the books and the concerts and the films and the insanity of trying to get and stay fit - balancing it all IS living in Lilliput.

You see, before children come into the picture, single life, or even married life, is so…uncomplicated. And monotone – by which I mean that everything is of the same purpose - colored and sized and planned for adults.  It's not that it doesn't have difficulties - it's just that everything happens on one plane of existence - one level of experience.  Then
a baby comes.  I thought that I knew what to expect.  Add a cute little baby to MY life.  Like an adorable accessory.  I'd have to adjust my schedule, sure - but I didn’t expect someone that small would completely transform what MY life was.  Let’s start out just with stuff.  Regular size furniture is replaced or pushed aside for tiny chairs, tiny toys, tiny clothes that are EVERYWHERE! It is no wonder that Lilliput is the first thing that came to my mind, since whether you have one or five or ten kids, you do feel like a giant stomping around among miniaturized cups and spoons and beds…

And these tiny people are part of you, and you are part of them – until you’re not sure where they end and you begin.  And they teach you more about yourself.  For them you discover your creativity, or your imagination, or your love of nature, or whatever is inside you that you were too adult to realize even though you didn't and still don't feel like a "grown up" yourself and wonder when you will.  Through them you remember your soul.  But ironically, by remembering, you also begin to realize there is a part of you that doesn’t belong to them.  You don't become a child again - you're still an adult and now you have both of these worlds within you. There must be time for non-mommy development as well as the childcare portion of life.  I do NOT call it “me time.”  Because there is nothing selfish about it.  The description I prefer is the Covey concept of Sharpening the Saw.  Doing things for our mental, physical, emotional and social health that keep us strong, capable role models for our children. 
And then, there’s realizing that these little people will grow up.  And they will become independent.  And if, no matter how wonderful they are and how much we love every finger, eyelash and dimple, we don’t cultivate talents and joys that don’t necessarily involve them, when they have moved on, we will not be able to.  We will be lost. And bored.

So it’s about balance.  And in the interest of balance, I am officially re-launching my blog to expand my scope.  I have, in the past, focused almost exclusively on crafting and sewing that I’ve done for and with my kids.  I love this part of being a parent.  (Note: I don’t love all parts – please give advice on teenage boys!) I will now begin to speak my mind a bit in posts.  There will still be tutorials and craft projects galore (well, as many as I have been doing – can’t exactly call that GALORE), but I’m going to start including movie reviews when I am fortunate enough to see the screening, book reviews perhaps, some fitness stuff, anything random that I find interesting – basically some of the stuff
I do when I’m not being officially MOM. 

I hope you enjoy the expanded topics and ramblings.  I plan on having a lot of fun!  And I’d love you to share your thoughts and experiences as well.  Feel free to contribute comments or posts!  This isn’t an easy journey in this uncharted land of little people – not just taking care of them, but figuring out who we are at the same time.  Let’s share notes and help each other along the way.

And please be patient with me if the blog looks different from time to time - technology is hard - and I'm determined to end up with the best, most responsive blog possible for someone as non-techie as me :)
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