Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Flu, Tornadoes, and My Safe Place

Ugh.  What a useless waste of time this whole flu thing has been.  I mean, what's the point of being sick if you feel too horrible to do all the fun stuff you do when you're sick, like reading trashy romance novels, catching up on Downton Abbey and Project Runway, and indulging in daytime sleep?

Back on Monday, when Will was the only one afflicted and I was still relatively well-rested and in the mood to be kind to people, I was fairly productive. Dishes were washed and put away, jobs applied for, laundry folded, and even a floor was scrubbed.  But that all changed around midnight Monday/Tuesday.  Fever, chills, and my head being stuck in a giant invisible nutcracker turned me into a zombie with no feelings other than self-preservation. 

Tuesday, Will was home again with me, and we both felt crummy so we slept and took it easy all day.  Mike and Sarah were still feeling good at this point, so Mike played Mr. Mom while I lay down and stared at the ceiling fan for awhile (it hurt waaaay too much to blink). I still don't know why this pastime is all the rage among infants.

The next thing I know, we're being awakened by tornado sirens and a frightened child.  Mike gathered the littles into our bed and we watched the news until the power went out.  Nope, we didn't go down to the basement like we're supposed to.  Once the power went out, everybody started fighting about who slept next to Daddy and how much cover to be under, and I kept getting kneed in the rear-end.  So, sirens still going and all, I went to my safe place: the couch in the den.  Surrounded by 4 windows and two French doors.  Best sleep I've gotten this week.

One unexpectedly positive side-effect of being under quarantine: workmen can't get away from us fast enough.  Mike made an appointment for some contractor or something to come by and check out our house this morning.  The very mention of the flu made that manly-man turn tail and run, as if I'd said "bubonic plague". 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Flu Comes in on Little Cat Feet...

...And then rolls over you like a rhino.

Yep, we've got the flu over here.  I blame our trip to Chuck E. Cheese (but it was soooo worth it).  It got Will first: I took Sarah to choir Sunday night, leaving the boys behind in good health and spirits.  By the time we came back, Will was glassy-eyed and feverish.  Lots of sleep, analgesics, and movies yesterday home with me seemed to get him on the right track, but he was still spiking a fever at 4 am today.

Meanwhile, I did my usual workout last night feeling fine, and then sometime around midnight I woke up with the chills, body aches, and the worst hangover in the history of hangovers without having a drop to drink.

So, the little man and I are hanging out today.  He's on the mend, while I'm just trying to wade through this soupy fog.  We are supposed to be getting ready for the big birthday par-tay on Saturday (yeah, only a month after the actual day), but that's just going to have to wait.  Thank goodness we're not having it at our house, since, despite my best efforts, this place is a disease-ridden pig sty.

Here's hoping Sarah and Mike stay healthy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Superhero Pegs

If you're tired of the peg dolls, too bad because we are not. We have a few new ones to add to our bevy, including IronMan, Gold Lame (pronounced lam-ay) Elvis, BatGirl, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, and Iron Woman.

Ever since Will got an IronMan toothbrush, he's been big into that particular superhero.  Some of Sarah's best friends at school are boys, so she's been more into ninjas and superheroes lately, too.

Mike drew him for me, and I started painting him along with Catwoman, BatGirl, and WW. Blah, blah, skip to the part where Sarah looked from IronMan to me and back to IronMan with big saucer eyes, asking, "Where is IronWOMAN?"

Great question, Gloria Stein-Brown. 

So, here they all are in their glory:

Apparently Elvis really IS a vampire.
Here's a lineup of just the girls:
I gave WonderWoman Sarah's blonde hair and blue eyes since I went with a Julie Newmar-ish Catwoman and Bat Girl's wearing a mask and hood. 

Now Will's demanding a jet pack on IronMan (seriously, how did he get that from a picture on a toothbrush?), so I'm thinking of something 3D to add to it.  Maybe some sort of pasta?

If you want a little change of pace from the crafty posts, hang in there, it's coming soon.  We're headed to Chuck's Pre-schooler's Paradise today, and the peeps can't wait.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cabin Fever Cures: Marshmallow Shooters

So, here's the thing: Mike cringes whenever I plan a trip to the hardware store.  

Why? Because he knows I'm going to get started on something like making toy grills, constructing a lemonade stand, or procuring mass quantities of paint chips, and then I'll get in a little over my head and he has to step in before I saw my hand off (almost happened) or drill through my leg or some such nonsense. 

Right before Christmas, (like two days before) I found these diy marshmallow shooters. Thinking they might be fun for the niece and nephews, I got all the PVC stuff... and then waged war on mountains of laundry while trying to pack 3 suitcases, numerous Christmas gifts, and four humans into a sedan in under 24 hours.  By the way, have you ever tried to pack suitcases while your mini-me's are simultaneously trying to unpack them? I miss baby jail pack-n-play days.

Suffice it to say, I didn't get the shooters cut and assembled before Christmas.  Or even before New Year's. Anyhoo, we didn't send them to the nephews (whoops, sorry!) but we did have a lot of fun playing with them ourselves.
Luckily, we had some stale mini-marshmallows left over from the graham cracker house debacle and they worked a treat. 
Don't let their light clothing fool you - it was COLD out there.
On the downside, it takes a little bit more lung power than my peeps have, so they had more fun with the sawed-off shorter versions (not pictured). 

They also immensely enjoyed blowing through them like those South African horns a la World Cup 2010.

Will liked carrying his slung over his shoulder like a Continental soldier.  And eating the stale marshmallows. All he needs is a Chewbacca-style bandolier. 
I have plans for spray painting these with pink glitter and camo.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cabin Fever Cures: Soap Snowballs

What do you do when the under-four-feet crowd in your crib is fussy and sick, and Mother Nature apparently is too?  

You let the wee ones take extra-long baths, splashing and playing with whatever floats their boats.  One of these bath time events involved snowballs made of Ivory soap shavings smooshed around miniature tundra inhabitants.

I actually made these soap snowballs with little Polar animals in them for Sarah when she was about two, after I got the idea from Family Fun magazine.  The first attempt did not go so well.  Suffice it to say, two-year-olds and grownup soap are a bad combination: burning eyes, tears, and screaming ensued, and the activity was shelved.  Until now.

So, I hauled out the cheese shredder for the second time ever, and used three bars of soap to make a big fluffy pile of shavings.  Now, I used Ivory soap for this.  I don't know if you could use another kind, but I suspect the consistency wouldn't be quite right to pack the snowballs nicely.

              I put the shavings in a gallon plastic bag, 

                                         threw the animals in,

            and packed the shavings around the animals, layer by layer. 

Plop these babies in warm water and let the kids go to town freeing the animals from their "icy" traps.

Unlike a few of my experiments lately, Sarah and Will had a blast with these.  So much so, in fact, they keep asking for more snowballs.  Will also slept with his "Blooga" whale clutched in is chubby fist two nights in a row, and Sarah thinks her Native American name should be "Dancing Polar Bear".  I think I'll keep this in my bag of tricks for when the weather turns bad again.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Heart Specimen Chart Art

Do you ever stand in front of a display of brightly-colored sweaters, unable to decide on just one color because they look too yummy stacked there all together?  Or do you ever find yourself in the paint section of Home Depot, transfixed by all of the rainbowy goodness, unaware that your kids have wandered off and your son is trying to use the demo potty in the home remodeling section?  No?  Maybe it's just me.

Soooo, it's the middle of January and we still had the Liberace Santa hanging over our couch.  All other evidence of Christmas was packed away long before New Year's, except that.  Mike and I hemmed and hawed.  I pinned ideas and checked my junk craft stash, but we still couldn't come up with anything that would be quick and cheap and cool to look at.  Until I saw this on Pinterest.  Rainbows and hearts, all together in one project?!  The 3-year-old girl in me was doing cartwheels.

This project was right in my budget (free!), quick, and easy.  I already had a heart punch and the frame, and I used the back of a poster, so the hardest part of all this was procuring mass quantities of paint samples.  My trusty sidekicks and I set out to gather as many as possible, and I think we could have used a few more, but, meh.  

All I did was punch out the hearts, arrange them on the back of a white piece of paper big enough for the frame, glue them down with glue stick, and pop the thing up on the wall.  Done and done.

Here's the end result:

Ready for Valentine's Day!

I should mention that Mike doesn't like my "art" very much, and I know my version doesn't look as good as the Pinterest one.  But, hey, it buys us some time to figure out something a little more sophisticated, and you get what you pay for, right? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cabin Fever Cures: Snow-Dough 2 Ways

Winter in Nashville is unpredictable.  Right now, we're coming off a beautifully mild couple of days and we've been taking full advantage of them outside.  But the weeks before then were rainy, with roller coaster temperatures bringing sniffly noses and cranky moods.  Being cooped up inside doesn't ever improve one's mood, and so I set out to have some wintry crafts ready to keep the kiddos busy.  Since snow is rare here in Nashville, I decided to bring the snow inside for some fun little activities.  First up, we've got some glittery, snowy homemade play dough.

 I went with my go-to no-cook play dough recipe for the initial attempt, and threw in some peppermint extract for some extra zing. 

Here were the results:

Now, I didn't think it looked too bad and neither did Sarah and Will.  Sure, it was more like the snow you're supposed to avoid in the woods, but it had GLITTER and one of my favorite aromas.  However, my FB peeps pointed out its less-than-appetizing looks, so I went back to the drawing board. 

All smiles, haters.
So, here's version #2:

It's really a clay recipe, but I'm going to see how long it lasts in an airtight container.  Because it's made from baking soda and cornstarch, it's a purer white and silky-smooth to the touch.  I used two teaspoons of peppermint extract, and it was not nearly enough. This recipe does take color a lot better, giving off a truer hue.  But, you have to cook it.  Ugh.

Here are the recipes for both versions, adapted from Vicki Lansky's Feed Me! I'm Yours.  These are so versatile as play dough, and you can use version #2 for clay hand- and footprints, Christmas ornaments, or everlasting snowmen (which we might be doing in the near future).

Version #1 No-Cook  (Dirty Snow) 
Mix together:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1tsp. alum
2 Tbsp. Peppermint extract
Up to 1/2 cup of water*

Slowly add in the water to the rest of the ingredients until the mixture has the consistency of bread dough.  If you want to add some color as well, put several drops of food coloring (or tempera paint) into the water before you mix it in. 

Version #2 Stovetop Silky Snow/Clay
Mix together:
1 cup cornstarch
2 cups baking soda (1 lb.)
1 1/4 cups cold water
A whole bunch of Peppermint extract

Mix peppermint extract and water together in a saucepan.  Add in the dry ingredients and stir the ingredients together for about 5 minutes, until it looks like mashed potatoes.  Trick your husband into almost eating it for dinner ("Why are we having mashed potatoes with tacos?").  Pour the mixture out onto a plate to cool and cover with a damp cloth.  Like I said, this is supposed to be clay, but we're going to see how long it lasts in a Ziploc.

Seriously, between cooking play dough and making soup, I'm getting really, really good a making roux-like substances.  Except for almost burning the play dough tonight. 

At least the yak and the wolf like playing in it...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Will!

Before we let Will speak for himself, here are a few factoids about the man at this moment in time:

  • He's intense: either scalding hot or ice cold, but NEVER lukewarm.
  • He's a big believer in the 4 D's: donuts, dinosaurs, dragons, and drums.
  • He's making 2013 the Year of the Sweater Vest.  Sweater vest + Sweatpants = the perfect outfit for almost any occasion.  Nothing says, "I may be dressed up, but I'll wrestle you for a donut hole," like this classic combo.
  • Career goals: Superhero Rockstar Race Guy Space Ranger
  • Words to live by: "Don't pick your boogers in church."
  • Snuggler extraordinaire
  • Little-known talent: shaking his groove thang.
  • He's raised competitive lap-sitting to an art form, brawling with anyone who tries to sneak a cheek on Mom or Dad's lap.  
  • Will never stops talking.  Ever.  Even in his sleep.  
  • Interesting factoid: Will hates birds and is convinced the pigeons in the library parking garage are going to eat him.
  • He came out of the womb with a South Beach-worthy tan.  His year-round golden complexion has earned him the moniker "Brown Bear", while Sarah is our fair-skinned polar bear.

Will has a complicated relationship with big sister Sarah.  He steals her food.  She tackles him for it.

Sometimes it's hard to have a big sister.  You get bossed around twice as much, sucked into princess dress-up scenarios, and hugged against your will.  But, at the end of the day, she's the best friend and ally to have when all that stands between you and the bad guys is a pool noodle and a superhero cape.

We can't believe that our baby boy is 3 years old and all grown up!

Anyway, I will hopefully have his birthday interview up later on today.  Sometimes life happens and you just can't get everything done.

Love you, big man.

Happy Birthday to the King

Today would have been Elvis' 73rd birthday.  As a Memphis girl, I know that all this week fans from across the globe have been honoring him with candlelight vigils, tears, and visits to Graceland.

Here's our own little tribute in pictures:

Don't step on my pink glitter shoes.
What? You don't let your preschooler play with the fireplace poker?

The Elvis costume is one that I made for Will's Halloween getup 2 years ago, and the plan was for him to model it.  However, he's busy filling his waning hours of being two with extra terribleness, contrariness, and two-ness.  Good thing I had a compliant 4-year-old waiting in the wings to model for me.  

Here's the best of the worst of the Halloween pictures of Will "TCB" Brown working his trick-or-treat magic.

January 8th also brings to mind the snow we had 3 years ago.  I was in labor (but nothing major) and Sarah and I went out to explore the white stuff.  I built my signature Slimer snowman, and she proceeded to take a bite out of the head.  The next day, we headed to the hospital and after a pretty short interval, I held my little Moose and watched the snow fall.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's 2012: Bigger. Badder. Later

Usually by the time New Year's Eve rolls around, I'm over it.  I'm done with the running around, the family-togetherness, and the late nights and resulting cranky kids.  This year, though, in a fit of temporary insanity, we decided to let the kids stay up as they wanted to.  We thought they'd conk out around 10:00.  Boy, were we wrong.

Let's back up.

Something you should know about Sarah and Will: the only two components required for a party are 1.) hats, and 2.) balloons.  Cupcakes are a big bonus.  Though we didn't have cupcakes, I did have the two essentials plus a few extras.  And chocolate pudding. 

To kick off the evening, the short ones and I donned pink-and-silver-glittered party hats. 

And here is Sarah trying to blow up 4 balloons at once.
After the novelty wore off the horns and other noisemakers, I got out some sort of confetti poppers.  The kids needed help with them, they left the faint smell of gunpowder(?) in the air, but they sure were fun to pop and shoot the streamers out with.
Bubble wrap was next up on the agenda.  I got this idea from my Mom, because, over Christmas, the kids got into her Snow Village stuff and found the bubble wrap.  They went to town stomping all over it and making some really satisfying POP!'s.  I just got a roll at Staples, but it was the small-bubble kind, and therefore not as fun.

Even pre-schoolers deserve a toast to the New Year, so we had some "spicy drink" and felt super-fancy telling each other "Cheers!" every time we took a sip.

For some reason, blue food-coloring was a necessary addition to the drink.  Hence, the blue pucker on that girl of mine.  True to form, Will was unsatisfied with just having a blue mouth and ended up with blue hands as well.


We all made it to the countdown to midnight in good spirits, and bedtime was a breeze with such tired people around.
I'll tell you what, though.  We are NEVER keeping them up that late again, until they're in high school.  The next day was U-GLY. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: The Year of the Elf

This year, we got into the Elf on the Shelf thing. Big time.  As in, Julie-needs-a-hobby-big-time. We did it last year, but I was student-teaching and my invitation to Pinterest was under review/consideration, so I just moved the elf around to different spots above 3 feet high. Thank goodness for Pinterest and Instagram, 'cause I sure did steal some other people's elf ideas.  At first, I was worried.  I mean, you have to move that thing around, like, 30 times.  But after the first week or so, we got into it. 

Here are the stats:
  • Days moved to new position: 27
  • Days Mike was in charge and forgot to move the elf: 3
  • Questions about whether Eddie was dead and that's why he didn't move: 3
  • Snarky/mischievous pranks: 16
  • Sweet/thoughtful activities: 8
  • Boring, hanging on the doorknob occurrances: 4
Eddie really had an uphill battle in the beginning with Will.  The man did NOT like the idea of yet another being tattling on him and causing trouble.  Before the Polar Express peace offering, I feared for our elf's safety.  I really wanted Eddie to color the kids' milk purple or something, but I'd learned from past experience that all that gets you is two sippies of wasted milk.  See, a leprechaun got in our house last year and dyed the milk green and my friends did not think that was funny.

I had high hopes of putting together a highlight reel set to the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun", but we were partying too hard here last night.

Here's a few highlights from this year's advent: 

Underwear stockings

Packing nutritious lunches of dog bones, honey, and beef stock.

Packing-peanut sledding

Sleigh ride

Elf graffitti. My fave is the Elf Food Guide Pyramid

And who could forget the toilet-bowl fishing or the wild times at Elf Studio 54?  We were sad to see you go, Eddie, but we're looking forward to more pranks and snarkiness for Christmas 2013.