Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nature Walk Placemat

My little folks and I took advantage of a break in the storms on Sunday and went for a little nature hunt.  Well, Sarah and I hunted.  

Will smacked Nature with a stick.
I got the idea from some clear plastic creation I saw involving paper flowers and glitter and stuff.  Since my sidekicks are always handing me rocks, sticks, flowers, weeds, garbage, and any other flotsam and jetsam they come across whenever we step outside, I thought they'd be naturals at collecting stuff for this little project.

Sarah's favorites were flowers and leaves, "wishing flowers" (dandelions) making the top of her list.  Will gathered gravel, sticks, and mushrooms.  

The honeysuckles are my favorite. 
Once we were done with our collecting, I cut four pieces of clear contact paper, roughly the size of a place mat.  I laid them out, sticky-side-up, and let the kids arrange their treasures on them and flatten them out. 

The next part was tricky, since I had to stick the other piece of contact paper on top of the first one, sandwiching the collected items in the middle. 
I smoothed it out as best I could, and then folded duct tape over all four edges.  
They turned out "rustic" (read: lumpy), but it was kind of cool motivation to get out and really take a look around us at all this SPRING happening right now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tiny Clothes

Since Sarah and Will got Bitty Twins and an American Girl doll for Christmas, I've been chomping at the bit to make them some doll clothes and accessories to go with them. 

But, except for the Valentine's Day outfits, I haven't done anything.

Until now. 

Since I made the kids their superhero swag, they've been begging me for some Batman/Batgirl gear.  This weekend, I obliged.

 For the dress, I used the Lil' Sally doll dress pattern, found here.  The pattern is a really quick sew, and you can do some fabric stash-busting while you're at it.  Plus, I have the little girl dress pattern, so little mommies and dollies can match! 
The little t-shirt pattern is found here, and I have a doll's Twirl Skirt in the works.  Now, I'd better get to work on capes and masks for these dolls.  We wouldn't want anybody to guess their true identities...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Parenting is an adventure, so I thought today you might want to choose your own, even if you don't have any two-legged children running around your house.

Your child's Lego airplane/racecar that he/she has painstakingly constructed over the course of 15 blissfully-quiet minutes falls into a poopy toilet (it's easier if you don't try to use any common sense or logic with this.  Just go with it).  Amidst the cries, wails, and hysterics, do you:

A.   Give it up for lost and flush it down the toilet, fingers-crossed that it doesn't stop     anything up.

B.  Don a HAZMAT suit and grab the salad tongs to fish it out of the toilet and throw it away.

C.  Pretend like you suddenly don't understand English (and whining and hysterics) and go about your business as usual.

D.  Sigh, and grab it out barehanded, adding it to the other Lego creations bathing in the bleach solution in the basement sink.  

Mike's go-to choice since high school has been C, and it hasn't failed him yet, so that's what he went with.  I mean, when the numbers are with you, why fight it?

I went with choice D.  Because I'm the mom and I don't have a choice.  Or a HAZMAT suit.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Of Superheroes and Sidekicks

We go to the main library downtown every week.  And every week we look for the Batman building.  It's really the AT&T building, but with the two enormous antennae sticking up from the top of it, it looks just like Batman's silhouette.  

We are convinced the Dark Knight lives here.
On our trip down there the other day, I thanked the kids for being so patient that morning as we ran errands.

 "Thanks for being such good sidekicks, guys!"

"What's a sidekick, Mommy?" asked Sarah.
"A sidekick is like a helper superhero.  Like Robin is to Batman."
 "I'm Batman," lisps an eerily Dark Knight-ish, utterly confident, 3-year-old voice from the back seat.

"And I'm Batgirl!"

"So, what does that make Mommy?"
"You're Robin.  I'm Batman."  
Life is like handing your kid the camera: you never know what you're gonna get.   
And, there you have it: my inspiration for some new duds.  Some moms think of coordinating outfits in gingham and plaid.  I coordinate outfits by superheroes and sidekicks.  If I'm going to be Robin, it had better be the Chris O'Donnell version of Robin.  I'm just sayin'.   

Here we are, ready to fight crime and eat snacks.  Maybe fight crime WHILST eating snacks.

The truly insane part of all of this?  I'm making AG/BB doll outfits for Sarah Jr., Will Jr., and Violet, complete with superhero masks.  Maybe I need a new hobby...

On a somewhat related note, THIS is the sight Mike and I woke up to the other morning:

At least we can sleep easy, knowing that Batgirl is looking out for us.
Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fiesta: Spanish for "Smack Your Neighbors With a Pool Noodle"

What do you do when your 4 y/o says to you, all Scarface-style, "I want to have a fiesta,"?

Well, when people around here start speaking espanol, we sit up and take notice.  I really think one of Sarah's superpowers is knowing what you need, when you need it, because getting together with the neighbors was just the thing. 

In case you didn't know, Sarah is really the idea person around here, and I'm her assistant/minion.  She had the idea of a fiesta, so therefore it was my job to come up with the rest of the "details" and make this sucker happen.  You know, like the food prep, decorating, and hiding the clutter picking up the house.

We had tacos, and it worked out so much better logistically than I thought it would.  The cuisine was great for the adults, not so much for the kids.  

Of course, I wanted to have a little something for the kiddos to do, since there would be 5 of them in attendance.  And since my neighbor Katie staged a completely awesome "egg volcano" and hunt on the Saturday before Easter. 

Seriously, my kids are STILL talking about the volcanoes.  

Anyway, maracas and pinatas came to mind as proper entertainment for a fiesta, so I got to work.  
The day of.  
And only had time for the maracas.  

They're just made out of leftover plastic eggs, rice for the inside, plastic spoons, and clear packing tape.  I got the how-to here.  

Here are the neighbor-ladies doing a little hat dance.

Working the mustaches.
Senoritas y mustaches
Mustaches and maracas are all well and good, but the real entertainment for the night came in the form the pool noodles/light sabers.

Here's our caballero riding in on his trusty steed, Noodle.

I hadn't invited our middle-school neighbors over with the intention of having them take the brunt of a pool noodle attack.  But, since they did and it worked out smashingly for all of us watching from the sidelines, I think I might ambush invite them over for Round 2.

Both factions in the Noodle Wars made peace over mustachioed cupcakes, and everybody went home sleepy and happy.  But not before Cruise Director Sarah turned off the lights on everybody and told them they had to leave when it got dark.

Baked, not burned.  Yay me.
It's a good thing, after a stressful and frustrating week, to be able to end on a high note.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lemony Lemonade Stand (Part 1)

Last summer, Sarah "Scrooge" Brown was bitten by something of an entrepreneurial bug: she wanted to open her own lemonade stand.  Hmmm, I thought.  Low overhead, cheap (free) labor, and a minimal investment in materials?  That's my kind of startup.  

But, what to use for the actual stand?  There were a few necessary features I needed in my stand, portability, durability, and visibility paramount among them.  Card tables were out since they're too big for my car AND the kids can't see over them.  Buying one was out because have you SEEN how expensive they are?!  Making one from, say, a discarded pallet was out, because I am not allowed to saw anything, on account of the fact that I can't even cut garlic bread without needing stitches (not whipping out the creative license on this one, folks.  Twice.  On the same finger.).  

But then Michael's emailed me a 50% off coupon one day, and Joann's kindly followed suit the very next day.  Of course I dragged the cherubs along to find something I needed.  While I was hauling them out of the unfinished wooden crates they were trying to stuff themselves into, I noticed that if I turned the crates on their ends, standing them up vertically, they were the perfect height for our Lemony Lemonade stand.  So, I bought one crate at each store with my coupons and planned my (painfully slow) attack.  

Here were the results:

Lemonade! Get your ice cold lemonade!

Do you want to make a lemonade stand too?

Here's what you need:
  • 2 unfinished wooden crates (shop here)
  • 8 casters
  • screwdriver
  • screws
  • 2 small hinges
  • small paint sample
  • paint brush
1. Paint your crates whatever color or colors you wish and let them dry completely.

2. Hinge your two crates together by standing them up vertically, open sides facing.  Pick a side and butterfly your hinges somewhere near the top, and the other close to the bottom.  You don't even have to drill pilot holes because the wood is so soft. Just be careful not to split it.

3. Screw the 8 wheels/casters onto the bottom of the crates at each corner.  Again, no pilot holes necessary.

That's all there is to it!

4.  Set the stand up at the end of your driveway in front of your two smiling kids, and watch the money roll in.  

Photo bomb by Little Bro

This stand was so easy to put together and it's really light and portable.  You could even make it taller for older/taller kids by nailing boards to the bottom.  

It's also really versatile. 
In Part 2 of this DIY, I'll show you how to add a crossbar for signage that can convert to a curtain rod for a puppet theater.  And there might be a bonus pattern for a manly lemonade shirt, since Will thinks he needs a uniform too.

I can't wait to set up the stand this year!  We're thinking of diversifying our offerings with pink lemonade and snow cones, since Aunt Julie got us the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine and we are dying to use it.  We'll probably come down in price significantly as well, since charging $10 per glass didn't really hit the right note last year, but the CEO remains unconvinced that we can't market our powdered-drink-mix concoction as a luxury good.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

We Found Nemo...

...at the dentist's office.  His sister lives there, too, in case you were wondering. 

 Is it just me, or does every single dental office have a giant tropical fish tank?  When you get your license to practice dentistry, do they stipulate that you must maintain a magnificent aquarium as well? The dentist I went to as a child had this awesome tank that you could view from the waiting room and also from inside this little cave-thing.  I remember trying to hide out in that cave, thinking my mom or the nurses would forget about my appointment. 

Anyway, I digress.  

The kids just had their first dental checkups this week, and nobody was nervous except for me.  I decided to launch a surprise attack on them, giving them no notice as to what we were doing, forgoing any preparatory readings of The Berenstein Bears Go to the Dentist, or Clifford Has a Toothache. 

Not to worry.  They didn't need any prep. 

Sarah rose to the occasion with her usual aplomb, smiling and following directions superbly. 
Dress is on backwards because she thinks it looks better that way.
 It was a really good thing she wasn't scared, because Will is apparently working on a Zagat survey of every public or private bathroom in the state of Tennessee, so we spent some time checking out the facilities.  And rolling on the floor. 

Their appointments were on separate days, so Will got to go to the treasure chest without walking the plank first.   Mike had the pleasure of taking Will for his check-up on Monday, and, as I left them that morning to go do job-hunt stuff, I might have giggled to myself and muttered, "Sucka!" under my breath. 

See, Will launches into bobcat-mode for a haircut, so we figured he would go full-on berserk-o when people started messing with his mouth.  Mike and I actually had a bet as to how many times Will would hiss at the dental hygienist, and if he would bite someone.

As you can see, both of us lost.

Cool, calm, and collected.

Thank goodness for Googly-eye, the flying squirrel.
Will's only complaint of the day: "I don't like that Banilla toothpaste."  
So, there you have it.  Now they're asking when they get to go back to see Nemo and Nem-ette.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Birthday Gifts for Green-Thumbed People

Today is my mom's birthday.  According to Sarah, DD turns 23 today.  So, did I have my act together enough to send her a gift, a card, a bouquet of flowers, or anything?  Nope.  There was a very brief time in my life (pre-kids) when I would send handwritten notes, cards, gifts, and such, and they would arrive before the holiday or birthday.  These days I'm doing ok if I remember Mike's birthday.

 Anyway, this year I really wanted the kids to make something for my mom that she could actually use and keep from year to year.  We tried making handprint cement garden path stones last year, but she won't put them outside, and those things tend to pile up inside from year to year. 

A trip to Home Depot last weekend sparked an idea: hand painted flower pots!  See, my mom is one of those people who can grow ANYTHING. 

 Except grass in her yard because she has 4 very large, very active dogs.  

I'm always directing Sarah and Will to my mom, their DD, for their plant questions, since she's our resident expert on growing things.  

I think these would be great for Mother's Day gifts, too, especially if the mom, grandma, stepmother, aunt, or great-aunt in question isn't a perfectionist.  

All we did was gather 4 pots and some outdoor paint (in the pots and fake plants section at Michael's), and got to work.

Will likes the inside of the pot to be as beautiful as the outside.
Will's finished product
Sarah's contribution
Sarah and I share a love of rainbows, so, of course that was the inspiration for her flower pot.  I thought she was just going to paint a little picture of a rainbow.  Then I saw what she had in mind.  It was kind of a big job to ROYGBIV that sucker, so she petered out after ROY, and I finished the rest. 

While the kids were painting, I decided to try applying silver leaf to a few of the pots (pinned here).  This was sooooo easy and the results were so pretty, I will definitely be trying this on a lot more pots.  Next time, I'd like to make some of them more rustic like the ones shown in the pin, but I think I might also make some look more mod. 

We stuck some pretty flowers in once the paint dried, and, voila! Unfortunately, the kids liked the end result so much that they've decided not to give DD her potted plants.  We're working on a shared custody agreement right now, but we're having a little trouble with the part of the contract that stipulates remembering to water the plants and not kill them. 

In other news, this weather is making us feel like hanging our heads out the car window.

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Salsa Garden

Over the weekend, we savored the beautiful weather, and finally, finally, finally got to plant our garden.  Last year's grand plans of harvesting and canning late into the year fell flat, so this year, we're keeping expectations low.  We're sticking to veggies we know with the goal of making two things from our harvest: BLT's and salsa.  Mostly salsa. 

Even so, a couple of weeks ago, I let the littles pick out a packet of seeds each so we could test out the "seedlings-planted-in-icecream-cones" pin. 

It was a good idea, but I couldn't tell you if it was a great way to start seedlings.
Will was mostly interested in eating the cones, not planting in them.  Once we did get the little seeds "down for their naps", we put them up in a high, sunny windowsill.  
And I forgot to water them. 
For three weeks.

I think Mike planted them anyway, but I don't have great expectations for our ability to grow anything from seeds.

Our garden consists of 3 large raised beds for onions, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and anything else that might strike our fancy.  

We buy mostly seedlings, since we've had the most luck with them in the past. 
One thing we NEED to figure out this year is how to keep the birds and rodents from using our garden like their own personal Shoney's all-you-can-eat salad bar.

Seriously, the birds and chipmunks always beat us to the punch on the strawberries, peaches, and raspberries. 
On the bright side, we keep finding new little strawberry and tomato seedlings cropping up all throughout the yard.
This next weekend we're planting the herb garden and getting a patch ready for the kids' rock/flower/pumpkin garden.  They spent today putting together their rock collections, so they are chomping at the bit.
All right, I have to get back to the job search and looking up DIY mole removal and chipmunk repellents.  Try not to be jealous of all this excitement.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Time Will Went John McEnroe on a Letter Game

Sarah is going to kindergarten in the fall.  Every time I think about it, my heart pinches and my breath catches, and I start thinking about how BIG school is and how small she is. 

But, I'm not going to second-guess or worry about how she'll fare next year because we've got work to do NOW.  At the top of the list: reading. 

Mike usually works on reading with Sarah because, as my daughter, it's like in her job description to sniff out what I desperately want her to do, and then not do it.  But, we need to get some sight words under our belts, and I had an activity in mind.  I pinned this a long time ago, but I can't find the pin now, so I'll give you a brief rundown.  This "game" lends itself to a lot of different skills as an alternative to the dreaded flash card. 

All you need is a piece of poster board (you can go as big as you want), markers, and cars.  I just eyeballed the width of the cars and drew spaces for them along the perimeter of the poster board.  Then, I picked some easy sight words from the pre-primer and kindergarten Dolch list and wrote one in each space.  Once my little race car driver was ready, I called out a word and she parked her car in the corresponding spot.  Or not.  We haven't done much with sight words, so this was a warm-up.  But, when she did get it right, you better believe I made a big deal about it.

This picture shows the color word game we also played, drawn right on the back of the first game.

Of course, we can't play with cars without getting Will involved, so I made a letter parking lot for him. 

The first round of play went swimmingly, with everybody giving cheers and high-fives.  I must have gotten tired or something on the second round, because I was accused of not cheering as much for Will as I did for Sarah.  The situation escalated, and soon cars were being thrown on the ground, my little McEnroe accusing this ref of cheating and stomping away.  Incidentally, this is how many a game of Candy Land has ended in our house as well.

Next time, I want to take this same concept and make it LIFE SIZED.  
Get ready, my little lab rats. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Recap

In spite of the cold, rainy weather, yesterday was a great day to celebrate.  

We woke up to find out that the Easter Bunny had paid us a visit!  Even Mike had his own little basket, (filled with Mounds and peanut M&M's, of course).  

The night before, I hot-glued the ears back onto the bunny hoods (blogged here), and Hip and Hop were back in action.

I really wanted to get a good picture of my three loves together, but Will was mad because we tricked him into wearing shorts.

Lightning McQueen light-up shoes really pulled the outfit together, and Will was back in good spirits and ready to be photographed with me and Sarah.

I'm glad I snapped this picture of these guys before church, because we walked out into a downpour afterwards.

The plan was to grab some poor, unsuspecting fellow churchgoer and have them take a picture of all of us in our color-coordinating outfits, but it was not meant to be.  

Two grand successes of the day: 
The kids almost made it all the way through big church,


I made an Easter dinner for the four of us, which everyone ate at the same table, at the same time.  And I very nearly got the rolls out in time to eat with the rest of the meal.  Almost.