Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Santa Already Knows What I Want!" (and Other End of the Year Quotes)

Honestly, I crack up whenever I reread the things my kids have said. This month's collection of kids' quotes is pretty darn good, though. Lots of funny memories. And since you may be wondering why I am tapping away at my keyboard while others are out celebrating...

Yes, we're getting crazy up in here for New Year's Eve! We already polished off our bottle of sparkling juice and had a raucous family game night. (I have dubbed myself the Queen of Candy Land.) Kids are now in bed, and I doubt I will be awake long enough to ring in the new year. Good times, good times.

See you all in 2014! I hope it is as wonderful for everyone as 2013 has been for our family.

12/2/13
M {eating Swedish Fish, which she called "sweet fish"}: "I never knew fish could taste that good."

12/3/13
L: "Circle is not a shape. It goes all the way around. It's a letter, like 'o.'"

Is it just me, or does that almost make sense?

12/5/13
M: "I have something to tell you: Doritos taste good dipped in ranch dressing!"
Me: "How did you learn this?"
M: "Turkey taco day!" (party at school before Thanksgiving) "We had some and I tried it."

12/5/13
I was explaining to Mia how things weren't going how I wanted and I was feeling frustrated. She thought for a moment and then replied, "Go to bed early then!"

If only it were that simple... Unfortunately, the mama can't go to bed in the afternoon.

12/8/13
M: "Ouch!"
Me: "What happened?"
M: "The wood hit me on purpose." {scowls and then informs me that she ran into the banister}
Me: "Do you want the boo boo bunny?"
M: "NO!" {scowls} "And I do not like wood."

Truly, it was all I could do to not laugh. She was so serious and so, so mad at that banister.

12/11/13
M: "Our elf is really talented this year!" {Said after seeing the string of gumdrops on the Christmas tree.}

12/14/13
M: "Me and Ritzy just did an Eskimo kiss and one thing -- her nose is very wet!"

I would imagine so, yes.

12/15/13
L {in the church bathroom -- and, of course, we were not alone}: "My penis is getting bigger!"

Really, child, you couldn't save this statement for a more private place? 

12/16/13
L: "Girls only have eyebrows... and cars have eyebrows, too."

I have no idea...

12/16/13
L: "Why are big people -- like Mommy or Daddy -- called giants or robots?"
Me: "I didn't know we were."

I repeat, no idea...

12/19/13
During Logan's preschool Christmas party a high school student sat in Santa's lap to try to convince one of the preschoolers that he was okay. She asked for a brand new car and Logan chimed in with, "I don't think Santa has car parts!"

This sounds plausible to me.

12/19/13
Also during the preschool party, Logan surprised me tremendously by hopping up in Santa's lap and talking to him, asking for a bunch of Hot Wheels stuff (none of which I could really understand, other than the words "Hot Wheels" and "crash!") Naturally, I asked him what he had discussed with Santa and he replied, "I don't feel like telling you. Santa already knows what I want!"



Well, I'm glad you're so tight with the fat man, but toss me a bone, here!

12/22/13
M: "Guess what, Mom? Dad was number one for a level in Candy Crush!"
Me: "Okay. Why are you telling me this?"
M: "I just want you to know everything that Dad does."
Brett: "Well, that's not much..."

Hey, he said it! I'm just repeating it.

12/23/13
Me {Catching Mia performing what I assume is a dance move on a chair at the dining table}: "Let's not do arabesques on the chair." (Note: I am proud of myself for learning some of the lingo.)
M: "I'm not. I'm just stretching."

Technicality, apparently. Future lawyer, this one. For the record, it sure looked like an arabesque to me. Also, we can add this to the list of things I never thought I'd say.

12/24/13
M {While singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"}: "Has Daddy been in history before?"

Not that I am aware of, but time will tell... Perhaps, he will set some sort of world record in Candy Crush.

12/24/13
Mia asked if I had made the paper slips for the Advent calendar and I told her that I did.
Brett: "How come you don't think I made them?"
M: "Because Mama is more creative and into crafts."
Me: "So what is Daddy good at?"
L: "Being mad!"
M: "Playing games and throwing a ball at a woodpecker on the roof."

12/28/13
L {Trooping into our bedroom at 7 am}: "Guys, it's morning and we're going to my cousins' house today! And guess what else?! We're also going to my sister's cousins' house!"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reading Log 2013

My favorite authors that I discovered this year are Mary Kay Andrews (so hilarious!), Sarah Addison Allen (enchanting, hard to put down), and Mitch Albom (very poignant). Quite likely the funniest book I read all year (and maybe ever) was I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. I had chanced upon this at the church rummage sale. Now, having reviewed this list, I've decided that I really should look for more books by her!

As always, I enjoy murder mysteries. I have read a few this year including several by new-to-me author, Leslie Meier. While she isn't as fun to read as Joanne Fluke or Donna Andrews, the heroine is one I easily identify with being that she is a busy mom and a part-time writer. Similarly, Laura Levine has created a funny heroine who is also a freelance writer, so I am enjoying her goofy mysteries more and more. In particular, I love when she imparts wisdom in the form of ridiculously punny one-liners such as, "If you ask me, some people shouldn't be allowed into the dating pool without a lifeguard." (Shoes to Die For, page 210) Or, while describing L.A. traffic during rush hour, "Lewis and Clark made better time than I did." (This Pen for Hire, page 176)

One author that I am not sure why I kept reading was Elin Hilderbrand. I guess her characterization is good because it sucked me in every time, but truly, these are depressing books, which are not really my thing. Mostly, I read for escapism, so I prefer lighter fare. On the other hand, it may not be fair to lump all of an author's works together. I had a Nicholas Sparks paperback set aside for our Puerto Rico trip, and I have to say that Safe Haven surprised me. It was very enjoyable, and for once, it had a happy ending. It almost makes me want to give him another try. Almost.

And just in case you worry that I read too much fluff, I would like to point out that I read my fair share of non-fiction. You may notice, for example, that I spent all summer reading books on the craft of writing. I can only hope that this will help me move forward with writing as a career!

I am a bit sad that I only just learned of the existence of goodreads.com this past October. How did I not know about this before?! Anyway, here is the complete list of books I read in 2013. I am way ahead of last year's list, which was a goal of mine.

  1. Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
  2. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
  3. The Baffled Parent's Guide to Stopping Bad Behavior by Kate Kelly
  4. Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews
  5. Tickets to Success: Techniques to Lead Children to Responsible Decision-Making by Jim Fay
  6. Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews
  7. Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews
  8. Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews
  9. Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews
  10. The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
  11. Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
  12. Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke
  13. 101 Kid-Friendly Plants: Fun Plants and Family Garden Projects by Cindy Krezel
  14. Easter Bunny Murder by Leslie Meier
  15. Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews
  16. World Class Marriage: How to Create the Relationship You Always Wanted with the Partner You Already Have by Patty Howell and Ralph Jones
  17. Some Like It Hawk by Donna Andrews
  18. I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
  19. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
  20. Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
  21. A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
  22. The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
  23. Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
  24. The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand
  25. Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love by Sherry & John Petersik
  26. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  27. Bookends by Liz Curtis Higgs
  28. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
  29. Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas
  30. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
  31. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  32. Thanksgiving Prayer by Debbie Macomber
  33. A Handful of Heaven by Jillian Hart
  34. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  35. The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  36. 102 Ways to Earn Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less by I.J. Schecter
  37. Writer's Market (2014) -- sections (I feel this counts because I plugged away at it for several days... and to be fair, it is the size of a large phone book! Besides, a person only needs to read the sections that are relevant to her. The rest would be a waste of time.)
  38. The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shephard
  39. Story Sparkers: A Creativity Guide for Children's Writers by Debbie Dadey & Marcia Thornton Jones
  40. Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
  41. The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
  42. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  43. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  44. Shoes to Die For by Laura Levine 
  45. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst
  46. Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  47. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  48. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  49. Turkey Day Murder by Leslie Meier
  50. Family Blessings by Fern Michaels
  51. Owe It to the Wind by J.R. Armstrong
  52. Christmas Cookie Murder by Leslie Meier
  53. Truly, Everything by J.R. Armstrong
  54. Wedding Day Murder by Leslie Meier
  55. Tippy Toe Murder by Leslie Meier
  56. Hokus Pokus by Fern Michaels
  57. Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier
  58. Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier
  59. Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews
  60. Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews
  61. This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine
  62. Beg (ga) (he) r by J.R. Armstrong

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Elf on the Shelf: Year Three

Coconut E. Butterfly is back for a third year of pre-Christmas fun. (If you missed it, here is where you can read about year 1 and year 2.) I was really, really on the ball this year, so I made a list of possible hiding places for each day in December leading up to Christmas. This may sound silly, but it made my life a lot easier. Each evening, instead of scrambling to come up with a new hiding spot for Coco, I just consulted my list and picked a choice that I was feeling up for that night. If I was extra tired I just went with something simple.

I compiled my list using suggestions from these two sites:  ABC WOTV4 and Jenna's Journey -- along with a few random Pinterest ideas and some ideas of my own. In all, I have listed 24 ideas, complete with photos so you can see how they turned out. All of them are what I consider to be cute, fun, and most important -- appropriate for young kids!

Believe it or not, one of the most time-consuming set-ups was the tea party. I had to scrounge throughout the house for a few days in order to find the tea pot and party treats, while Mia was at school and Logan was otherwise occupied. I never did locate any of the tea cups, but I did come across some other cups so it worked out in the end. Mia was actually quite impressed, enthusing, "Coco found all of this?!" Yeah, he's pretty magical, that elf of ours.

Another "problem" that I encountered was that I couldn't locate my spool of fishing line. For the string of gumdrops, falling "snow" cotton balls, SuperElf, and the zip line, I substituted dental floss (as I had previously mentioned in this post.) It worked great!

Here are a  few more lessons that I learned from Coco's adventures in 2013:
#1 My kids will NOT drink green milk. Mia insisted that Coco had made it "sour" and refused to touch it.

#2 You can quickly make your own SuperElf cape with some felt, scissors, 2 print-outs of the Superman logo, and glue dots.

#3 Letting the elf make a snowflake out of Q-tips in the master bathroom (where they are normally stored) meant that excited children would be trooping into the bathroom while Mommy was in the shower. After that, he only hung out in the other bathrooms. I do like to steal moments of privacy, you know!

#4 There is no legitimate way to spell out "Santa Claus say hi" with Scrabble tiles. It is necessary to make one of the players cheat somewhat and place "hi" so it isn't connected to the other words.

#5 If your elf is going to land his paper airplane on the ceiling fan, you may want to dust it first. Otherwise, you are posting pics on the blogosphere for all the other mommies to judge.

#6 The kids did not believe that Coco roasted his marshmallow with that battery operated candle. Not for one second. They totally knew he used the actual candle, located behind him. Luckily, they did not question how he lit it. Also, Brett commented that he didn't know he "was such a little pyro." Really, I did not think that this would be the one everyone would pick apart, but now you know.

#7 Elf donuts: so cute! I made these on the same night we had done gingerbread houses (out of graham crackers) so I already had royal icing at hand. Again, I was a bit disappointed that the kids didn't believe that Coco really had donuts. Mia announced that they were just Cheerios, but that didn't stop them from happily eating three each.

#8 Fishing for Goldfish crackers was cute. I wondered if I should have put them in a bowl instead of the sink so that they weren't wasted, but I decided it was okay since it was just 7 of the baby sized crackers.

#9 It required a little bit of tape to get the elf secured to the candy cane for ziplining. This bothered me ever so slightly, but they kids did not notice or care.

#10 A small amount of cotton batting + a rubber band = a quick, easy Santa beard.

#11 Brett has always wanted Coco to ride the dog. I was really proud of my idea to finally make this work! I stuck the elf into her collar while she was lying down next to an end table, and quickly snapped some photos while he was still propped up. Then, I copied the files, shrunk them down, pasted them into word, and printed them out. I left some white trim around the edges because it reminded me of Polaroids. (I couldn't get them square without taking time to mess around with the sizing more, something that I wasn't willing to do, so this had to be good enough!) Then, I set the "photos" in Coco's lap and propped him up against the camera bag so that the kids could find the evidence in the morning. Perfection! The whole family was excited (with the possible exception of Ritzy -- she seemed to wonder what I was up to.)

{Day 1: He's back!}

{Day 2: Clean up, clean up...}

{Day 3: Getting crafty with the Q-tips}

{Day 4: Coloring inside the lines}

{Day 5: Movie night, complete with popcorn!}

{Day 6: Making a mini paper chain}

{Day 7: A friendly game of Scrabble with a stuffed dog, not pictured}

{Day 8: Reading to some pals}

{Day 9: Donuts for breakfast!}

{Day 10: Crash landing?}

{Day 11: Goody, goody gumdrops for our tree}

{Day 12: Playing with Logan's RC car}

{Day 13: Chillin' in the fridge, with that "sour" green milk}

{Day 14: World's shortest Santa impersonator?}

{Day 15: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!}

{Day 16: Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SuperElf!}

{Day 17: Gone fishin'}

{Day 18: Squeaky clean Coco}

{Day 19: We don't own a Barbie convertible, but this Harley is just the right size.}

{Day 20: All he needs are graham crackers and chocolate.}

{Day 21: We do, however, have a Barbie jet ski!}

{Day 22: The magic of photography saves the day.}

{Day 23: Tea is served. (At last!)}

{Day 24: Mission Elf-Possible! The grand finale this year? Coco ziplining on a candy cane!}



Monday, December 23, 2013

My Kooky Christmas Cookie Story

Remember when I said that the holidays make everyone crazy? Well, this is what happens when I tell my husband to stop photobombing the pics of the kids decorating Christmas cookies. Notice that he did NOT listen to my demand request. Instead, he lifted poor Ritzy up so she could get in on the photobombing action, too. Honestly, this is the greatest picture ever! I can't tell if she is totally freaked out, or if she is really, really hoping that he is helping her get a bit closer to those delectable cookies.

Cookies for Santa? Check. Laughter? Check. I guess I can't complain when I get more than I bargained for. Merry Christmas from my crazy family -- cookie-craving canine, included -- to yours! I hope you will take a little time to recognize all of your blessings, especially the unexpected ones.

{Me want cookie!}

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sandpaper Gingerbread Family Craft

For the past few years we have kept an Advent calendar. In the beginning, I used to put small candy such as Hershey's kisses inside each box, but last year I decided to get away from that. I typed up various activities (make hot cocoa, drive around and look at lights, watch a Christmas show, read a Christmas book, write a letter to Santa, etc.) and put the slips of paper into each box. This way, we are doing things as a family instead of just eating junk food.

Admittedly, my kids are not always thrilled about this. For example, they just plain ignored the slip that said, "make a list of our blessings." Fortunately, they were happy the other day when it said "do a Christmas craft." I didn't really have anything planned, but I had remembered pinning this idea ages ago. So I pulled out my sandpaper (purchased from Dollar Tree for this project) and my cookie cutters and we got to work.

The original craft that I was inspired by involved a lot of puffy paint (cute, but not exactly young child-friendly!) and it was intended to be used as invitations for a cookie exchange. This sounds very cute, too, but here is how I modified the craft to make a more appropriate project for my two kids.

{Gingerbread Boy and Girl by Logan, Age 4}
(Can also be captioned, "why puffy paint should not be placed in the hands of preschoolers!"
Although, his wasn't too bad. It was actually dry by the following morning, which surprised me.)

Materials:
  • sandpaper
  • gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters
  • pen
  • scissors
  • tacky glue
  • embellishments: buttons, feathers, pom poms, beads, pipe cleaners, craft foam, felt, markers, yarn, sequins, etc.
  • puffy paint (optional -- not suggested for preschoolers and toddlers!)
  • something to protect work surface (recommended -- I like cereal box liners.)
  • old clothes/paint shirts (optional -- strongly recommended if using puffy paint!)

{Our Sandpaper Gingerbread Family by Mia, Age 6}

Directions:
  1. Flip sandpaper over to the non-textured side. Place a gingerbread boy or girl cookie cutter on top and trace around it using a pen. Repeat as many times as desired. I found that we could fit 5 gingerbread people per sheet of sandpaper. (2 large and 3 small) Cut out the gingerbread people.
  2. (If desired, protect work surface and kids' clothing before decorating gingerbread people.) Allow kids to decorate their gingerbread people by using tacky glue to apply whatever embellishments you have at hand. We used many craft staples that you likely have at home: buttons, yarn, pom poms, pipe cleaners, and regular markers. There are many, many, many possibilities. For example, Mia used buttons in the traditional fashion to make a shirt and Logan used them just for decoration all over an entire gingerbread girl. She also used feathers in more than one way -- to make a skirt and also cut and shaped to make hair. (Note: If you are brave enough to let your kids use puffy paint, remember that it will stain clothing and plan accordingly. Also, it is very tricky to "pipe" it neatly, as you can see from my own example with the blobby outline around the head, so that may be frustrating for little ones.)
  3. Make sure that glue dries completely before displaying your gingerbread people. 

 {Brett came home and asked, "Where's Mama's?" Now I have one, too.}

Other Ideas:
  • I think it would be cute to string several of these together to make a garland.
  • Since we have both boy and girl cookie cutters in both large and small sizes, Mia decided that she would make one gingerbread person to represent each member of the family. This would a cute thing to do as a family or as a class: everyone decorates a gingerbread person to look like himself.
  • These could also be made into ornaments by punching a hole and then adding ribbon, yarn, bakers twine, or a pipe cleaner. The only downside is that the sandpaper is kind of flimsy, so you may want to first reinforce these with a layer of card stock. A more durable option would be craft foam.
  • In fact, if you don't have sandpaper, craft foam would be fine for this project. You just will not have the textural aspect unless you find a way to create it. One way would be to add a layer of glitter, but this is going to be messier than sandpaper, by far.
  • To make these into puppets, add a craft stick like we did here.
  • I really do like the idea, too, of using these as invitations to a cookie exchange. In the past, I made my own apron invitations for an exchange, but these would be a bit easier to mass produce.
  • If you don't have a gingerbread cookie cutter, don't run out and buy one! (unless they are already on clearance, in which case feel free to share where you are finding them -- not that I need any more...) You could also use a teddy bear or a puppy or any other item that would look good in brown.
  • Looking for more ideas of things that you can do with cookie cutters? You might also like: cinnamon applesauce ornaments, gingerbread men paper dolls, craft foam ornaments (page 20), and Christmas sun catchers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Painted Christmas Tree Craft

Logan started this project at the library last week and then finished it this week. This shouldn't be too hard to do in an afternoon so long as you let the paint dry in between the painting and decorating steps. (Just give your child an empty cardboard box to play with. Those always seem to keep my kids occupied...) My favorite part of this craft is the clever and fun painting technique: using an actual limb from an evergreen tree or shrub in place of a paint brush! I also like that Mrs. D. added a small magnet to the back so that we can display the tree on the refrigerator (or the dishwasher or the back door -- we've got options.) It's definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas around our house!

{Finished Tree by Logan, Age 4}
Materials:

  • white card stock (or green)
  • scissors
  • fresh evergreen branches
  • green tempera paint
  • container to hold paint (I like Styrofoam trays.)
  • brown construction paper
  • glue stick/glue
  • something to protect work surface (optional -- I like cereal box liners.)
  • yellow construction paper
  • stickers or foam stickers
  • self-adhesive magnet (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut a large triangle out of white (or green card stock) to make the tree. Mrs. D. added simple branches by cutting notches out of the sides, which is simple and quick to do.
  2. Cut a trunk from brown construction paper. Adhere the trunk to the base of the tree. (Tip: If doing this project with more then one child, you may want to write names on the back sides of the trees before moving on to the next step.)
  3. Collect some fresh evergreen branches.
  4. (Protect work surface and clothing, if desired.) Pour some green tempera paint into a bowl or onto a plate or Styrofoam tray. Let your child paint the tree using evergreen branches. Once he is done painting, set the tree aside so that paint can dry completely.
  5. Decorate the tree! Cut a star out of yellow construction paper and let your child glue it to the top. Then, let him add stickers, regular or foam, for the ornaments.
  6. To make it magnetic, simply add a self-adhesive magnet to the back of the tree. Your child's creation is now ready to be displayed on any magnetic surface. (Tip: If you don't have magnets, you can tape this just about anywhere. Or you can display it on a clothesline style art display. Ours came from IKEA.)
Other Ideas:
  • You could make wintry trees in place of Christmas trees. Just substitute white glue "snow" in place of the sticker "ornaments."
  • If you don't have stickers, trim the tree with whatever you have at hand: buttons, pom poms, sequins, beads, ribbon, yarn, pipe cleaners, rhinestones, feathers, etc.
  • Mrs. D. displayed several plain green trees on the white board to make a winter scene. A few well-placed lines with a black dry erase marker, and it looked like the trees were standing in a snowy meadow -- very simple but pretty for a classroom display!
  • Painting with evergreen branches could also be used to make wreaths. Just use a paper plate for the base and have your child finger paint on some read berries. Add a red or gold bow for hanging.
  • Or skip the tree altogether, and just use the branches for paint brushes for a tactile experience. My little man is not always excited about crafts, but he loves painting in new ways, so he found this one to be very fun.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Three "Crazies" of Christmas

Fact: The holidays make people crazy. Some of it is "good crazy" and some of it is "bad crazy" and the rest of it is just regular ol' "crazy crazy."

This morning, for example, I was leaving the post office, feeling pretty proud of myself. By 9:15, I had started a load of laundry, dropped Mia off at school, started my bread dough to rising, and shipped my two packages and picked up stamps. I was about to joke to Logan that we could now rest on our laurels (which wouldn't have made sense to him, anyway), when it hit me: I had messed up!

I've been making photo calendars for my side of the family for the past three years or so. I operate under the idea that these make nice gifts, so I hope the recipients are in agreement. I thought I was so smart including reminders of all the important stuff like birthdays, anniversaries, special holidays... and then I realized I forgot one very important event for one very important little person. I left off my nephew's birthday, and I am totally feeling like C-R-A-P at the moment.

While he is too young to realize the oversight, I am sure everyone else will notice, especially his parents, my brother and his wife. All I can really say is that I am so, so, so sorry! But that doesn't seem good enough. I know if it was one of my children who was forgotten, I would feel kind of let down. The funny thing is that I remember looking at the month of April while making the calendar, too, and wondering what was tickling the back of my brain that I was forgetting to add. If I had realized this before mailing them I could have at least penned it in and added a sticker or something. It wouldn't have been quite the same, but at least I wouldn't feel like the crummiest aunt on the planet right now. Someday, we will all laugh about this, right?

So now I have mommy guilt, and it's not even for one of my own children! This is a new development, indeed. I think it will be filed under "bad crazy."

Now let's talk about "good crazy." I know the Elf on the Shelf gets a lot of flack, so I don't bring him up unless someone specifically asks me if we have this tradition. The answer is yes, this is our third year, and I love our elf! I think it's a lot of fun, and trust me, I would not continue this tradition if I did NOT like doing it. (You know what they say, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy? Well, since our little friend Coconut E. Butterfly -- or Coco for short -- makes this mama happy, he gets to keep on keepin' on.)

I am laughing at myself, though, because three times recently I have wanted to do something that required fishing line, and for some reason, I have no clue where it is. (Okay, the reason is most likely that my craft stash is totally a disaster!) Anyway, you may be interested to know that is is possible to substitute dental floss for fishing line. Resourceful, right? I used the one that Logan had unspooled in the car after our latest trip to the dentist, which I had collected in a bag and saved for "whatever." So, last night I learned that it is pretty quick and simple to make a Superman cape for an elf. The tricky part is getting him to "fly." Now, using dental floss may be what I consider "good crazy," but let me tell you that it worked great! (I plan to share everything that Coco has been up to this year, so look for that post after Christmas. In the mean time, you can also read up on where he was found in 2011 and 2012, photos included.)

Last but not least, I give you "crazy crazy." This is one for the history books and I really wish I had seen it firsthand. Last Friday the preschoolers had a Christmas party during our MOPS meeting, which included decorating sugar cookies. Obviously, there were sprinkles all over the table. Logan is resourceful and a bit nutty (just like his mama), so he stepped back about 5 feet from the table, got a running start, and then slid across the table top with his mouth open and his tongue out, collecting sprinkles all the way! Hearing this story, I was simply too stunned to even be mortified by this behavior. I decided that he was hopped up on sugar, and had spent just enough time with other boys. Luckily, they were all laughing about it. Not that I want to encourage a repeat performance, but I really do wish I could have been there.

I think I have done a good job this year of taking my time and only doing what I can handle for the moment, but sometimes we all get a bit strung up (and being extra hopped up on sugar doesn't help any.) Mia made this beautiful drawing at church yesterday morning, which gave me hope that amid all the Christmas crazy we were teaching our children what Christmas is truly about...


... and then later that morning we caught her with her hands around her brother's neck, yelling that he was an idiot! This confirms my earlier statement.

Fact: The holidays make people crazy. Some of it is "good crazy" and some of it is "bad crazy" and the rest of it is just regular ol' "crazy crazy." Personally, I am hoping for a balance of crazy, with the good outweighing the bad (and just a bit of "crazy crazy" thrown in for good measure). I'm pretty sure that's one Christmas carol that isn't being played, but maybe it should be.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homemade Peppermint Bath Salts

A while back we made bath salts at a MOPS meeting, which I thought were great! After getting the link to where the idea originated, I decided to make more of my own, some of which we are giving as gifts. I'm very happy with how this year's teacher gifts turned out. They look pretty, they smell wonderful, and most importantly, they have been test-driven and given two thumbs up by this mama.

To get started, I chose three different scents: peppermint, orange, and lavender, and I found the essential oils at a nearby health foods store. Why did I choose peppermint oil for the gifts? Well, it is currently vying as my favorite fragrance of the three types of bath salts that I made. Orange is on top at the moment, but peppermint seemed like the obvious choice for Christmas. Plus, it has lots of health benefits like alleviating muscle soreness as well as stress, improving circulation, helping ease congestion, and promoting energy and alertness. These are all the curative properties that I will personally attest to. Peppermint essential oil is also said to help curb appetite, just by inhaling the scent, so that may be an added bonus I have not noticed yet. At any rate, these bath salts are a perfect no-calorie indulgence during the crazy-busy holiday season.


{Easy Christmas gift idea!}

Ingredients: (Makes enough to fill 2 half-pint mason jars)

  • 3/4 cup Epsom salts 
  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt 
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • food coloring (I used 10 drops of red.)
  • essential oil (The original recipe calls for 8 drops, but I found this to be much too faint once I got into the tub, so I have doubled it for the gift batches.)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. (If making gifts for teachers, kids can help pour the ingredients.)
  2. Add essential oil and food coloring*. (Kids may be able to help with this step. I helped Logan count out the food coloring, but I added the essential oils myself.)
  3. Use a spoon or whisk to mix it all together. (Kids may help with this step, too as long as they don't stir to roughly.)
  4. Store in an air-tight container. (It will clump together somewhat after time. This happens to store-bought bath salts as well, so I don't see this as a problem.)
  5. Enjoy your bath salts or package them up and give as gifts. 

*Notes about food coloring:

  • Food coloring is optional, and mainly just for presentation. 
  • Once diluted in the bath, you don't need to worry about it staining your skin.
  • When I made orange scented bath salts I used a combination of 3 drops red and 5 drops yellow to make orange. 
  • For the lavender bath salts, I used 8 drops of neon purple food coloring. 
Notes on Where to Purchase:
  • The best deal I have found for Epsom salts is at Sam's Club, but they are very reasonably priced and can be found near the first aid section of any grocery store.
  • Coarse sea salt is found in the baking aisle. I have also used natural sea salt, which has smaller grains that don't look as much like the bath salts you might purchase, but it's a bit cheaper and it works the same.
  • My essential oils came from a natural foods store, but you can also find them online.
  • Lavender essential oil was the most expensive at $8.79 for a 0.5 ounce bottle, followed by peppermint oil at $8.29 for a 0.5 ounce bottle, and the least expensive was the orange essential oil, which was only $3.99 by comparison. (That may sound pricey, but since you will only use a few drops at a time, a bottle of essential oils will last a long time, so I look at this as a good investment.)
How I packaged my gifts:
  1. First, I filled each half-pint mason jar with bath salts.
  2. To make tags that read "Peppermint Bath Salts," I downloaded this free font. I put it in 24 pt. font, switched the color to red, and printed it so that I got 8 per page (in portrait layout). Then, I used plastic templates to cut them out, and then layered them on top of oval cut-outs of red card stock (which I made with another template.) I adhered the layers and then added a gold eyelet.
  3. I used a glue dot to affix the bamboo spoon to the jar.
  4. I cut a 21" length of red and white bakers twine, which I wrapped around the jar twice before tying on the tag.
  5. Then, I added a red card stock circle to the top of the jar and topped it off with a cute peppermint button, which I bought a few years back from Oriental Trading, attached with another glue dot. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Semi-Homemade Cheesy Garlic Bread

This recipe is my idea of the best way to use this garlic butter -- on freshly baked bread. The cheat is that the bread is not homemade, although that is on my list of things to someday learn how to do... Anyway, I use store-bought loaves of frozen white bread and I make two at a time (mainly because this is how many bread pans I own). Then, I cut the loaves in half and slice each half loaf into five pieces. Once they are slathered with the garlic butter (my variation on the recipe is listed below), I set aside one half loaf for dinner the day I make it, and then I wrap the other three halves in foil and freeze them for later meals. The frozen garlic bread is easily reheated at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, assuming I remember to thaw it before hand, and fresh bread only needs to be reheated for about 15 minutes to melt the butter and make it oh-so-yummy. This goes well with spaghetti, lasagna, and goulash, of course, but I also like to serve it with easy vegetable-beef soup and beef barley stew. Note: For an even simpler cheat, you can spread this garlic butter atop slices of grocery store baguette and then toast the bread under the broiler.

{If you don't tell them it's not homemade, they'd never know!}

Garlic Butter
1 C butter (2 sticks, softened)
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs minced garlic*
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt  (I use the garlic powder and salt in place of the garlic salt called for in the original.)
dash black pepper (less than original recipe calls for)

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. I usually use a Pyrex dish with a lid, so that I easily refrigerate the small amount of left over garlic butter. Occasionally, I will halve the recipe if I just want garlic butter on hand since it goes goes nicely with any kind of bread, biscuits, or rolls. *Note: I recently got a garlic press, and it is a total game changer for meal prep! I cannot recommend this tool enough if you enjoy garlic as much as I do.

{Dinner is served.}

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

22 Lunch Box Christmas Jokes-of-the-Day

Here is something I started last year when Mia was in kindergarten. I found a bunch of kids' Christmas jokes online, typed them up, cut them apart, and stuck a slip of paper into her lunch box. Some websites that I pulled from included Merry-Christmas.com, All Things Christmasand this one which sounds like it would have nothing to do with Christmas, but surprised me by having some perfectly acceptable kids' jokes. 

Once I did the original legwork, this became a simple and fun new holiday tradition. A joke a day was much better received by Mia than say, the time I took a black Sharpie and drew a silly face a banana before packing it in her lunch. I know her kindergarten teacher shared these with the class, and I am hoping the first grade teacher will do this as well. 

I got started with the jokes earlier this year, so that bodes well, don't you think? Here are several that I have used before, and a few extras, some of which are probably over her head. (I find them punny, so I am keeping them on hand for when the time comes that she is ready for them.) For "extra credit," I used decorative scissors to cut them out this year. I had learned at some point last year that she was more likely to see the jokes if I taped them to her sandwich holder than if I just slipped them in the lunch box, so I plan to do that each school day during the month of December, starting today!


  1. Q: Why do reindeer wear fur coats?   A: They look silly in polyester.                                
  2. Q: Which reindeer have the smallest legs? A: The shortest ones.
  3. Q: What is a snowman's favorite breakfast food? A: Frosted Flakes.                               
  4. Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?  A: Frostbite.
  5. Q: How do snowmen travel? A: Ice-cycles!   
  6. Q: What sort of ball doesn't bounce?  A: A snowball! 
  7. Q: Why do mummies like Christmas presents?  A: Because they're wrapped!
  8. Q: What do elves learn in school?    A: The elfabet.                                      
  9. Q. What kind of bird can write?  A. A pen-guin.
  10. Q: What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree? A: A pineapple!                      
  11. Q:What do snowmen eat for dinner?  A: Ham Br-r-r-r-r-gers!
  12. Q: What is the best Christmas present in the world?  A: A broken drum - you can't beat it!
  13. Q. What do you get if you cross Santa with a detective?     A. Santa Clues!                                
  14. Q. Why does Santa Claus like to work in the garden?  A. Because he likes to hoe, hoe, hoe! 
  15. Q: What is the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?  A: The Christmas alphabet has no L (noel).
  16. Q: What happens if you eat Christmas decorations?  A: You get tinsil-itis!
  17. Q: How is a cat on the beach like Christmas? A: Sandy claws.
  18. Q: What did one angel say to the other?  A: Halo there!
  19. Q: Why do reindeer scratch themselves? A: They're the only ones who know where they itch!
  20. Q: What is green, white, and red all over? A: A sunburned elf!
  21. Q: What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas? A: I'll never part with it!
  22. Q: How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizza? A: Deep pan, crisp, and even!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November at Our House

It has been a month full of notable quotables around here!

11/2/13
M: "If our wall was this color pink {holds up leg near the wall}, I would blend in."

11/4/13
After bath time, I discovered him holding a plastic spoon over one nipple and his hand over the other.
Naturally, I asked, "What are you doing?"
L: "Covering these up."
Me: "Well, let's get you dressed then."

11/5/13
M: "Look how fancy I am now -- 3 headbands!"

11/5/13
While cutting his hair, the stylist was chatting with him about Halloween and asked what his sister had been.
L: "A witch!" 
Unfortunately, I was the only person in the whole salon who heard the "b" sound. They all burst out laughing.

11/11/13
L {looking outside}: "Wait, wait, wait. I know what happened. The rain frozed-ed and now it's ice -- so it must be Christmas!"

11/12/13
M {very mad}: "The helicopter made me hit my head!" (Apparently the noise of a helicopter flying over the house startled her and distracted her from building with her Legos. I have no clue why, though, because they fly over pretty regularly and nothing like that has happened before.)

11/12/13
L: "Ow! It hurts when I put my teeth on myself." (Yes, child, it does.)

11/12/13
L {showing me where to put lotion}: "On my bender part." {points to his knee}

11/18/13
L: "When I grow up, I'm going to build my own house near a BIG water park!" (Obviously.)

11/24/13
L: "Uh oh! I swallowed my whole candy." (hard candy)
Me: "Is it stuck in your throat?"
L {shakes head "no"}: "My stomach is really BIG!"

11/28/13
Returning home from Thanksgiving dinner, it was close to bedtime and quite dark by the time we made it to the freeway. Despite this, the kids seemed pretty wired, and we soon heard a little voice in the backseat.
M: "I feel like we're nocturnal." 

Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Poodle Skirt (No-Sew!)

Last Friday was Mia's 50th day of school, and her first grade class was celebrating with a 50's theme. She had asked me if she could have a poodle skirt, and initially I thought there was no way I could pull that off with only a couple days notice. Then, I checked my craft stash and came across plenty of pink felt and a black iron-on poodle and some white pearl trim for the leash. Yes, I had actually hoped to make myself a poodle skirt several years ago, (like, B.C. -- Before Children era -- years ago). My sewing skills are not the greatest so I never got past the point of purchasing the materials!

Deciding that I had very little to lose here, I found an online tutorial for making a NO-SEW poodle skirt. The only thing I needed to purchase was some iron-on Velcro. The directions said that I would only need 2 inches, so instead of purchasing an entire package, I got 8 inches at the cutting counter at Jo-Ann. (I figured it was best to buy a bit extra just in case!) With my coupon, this cost me a grand total of 91 cents, so again, I felt that I had little to lose if it didn't go well. Actually, I guess that's not completely true. While at Michaels (which is right next to Jo-Ann, so I couldn't very well go to one and not pop into the other), I found some cute rhinestone ribbon trim in the $1 section. I couldn't resist getting this even though I knew I would use very little for this particular project. Honestly, it was a good deal, and I know it will get used for something else, but if you really want to know what I spent on this project it would be fair to share that.

I am happy to say that this project was a huge success, which I owe to my daughter who was entirely confident that I would produce a wearable skirt despite having never made her any type of clothing in the past. Her belief in me helped me feel that I could achieve what I had set out to do. Now that I have managed to make one cute little poodle skirt, I am thinking I should be able to finally make one for myself. I even have plenty of time to get it done before Halloween!

{Happy 50th Day of School!}

Materials:
  • 1 yard pink felt (or color of your choice -- this is the just color and amount I used)
  • scissors (I suppose fabric scissors are optimal; I used my regular old scissors.)
  • iron-on poodle applique (or use the template provided by obSEUSSed with your own felt)
  • pearl trim for leash (ribbon or other trim would work, as well)
  • iron-on Velcro (I used 3 inches total)
  • ruler (or measuring tape, if you have one)
  • iron
  • hot glue gun
  • black pom pom for tail (optional)
  • rhinestone trim for collar (or sequined trim, optional)

Directions:
1) (Note: I appreciate that obSEUSSed came up with this easy way to figure out how much felt to use.) Measure your child from the waist to her knees. I actually have a dressmaker's measuring tape somewhere... not sure where, though, so I used a plain old ruler. (See, I swear anyone can do this, and you do NOT need sewing skills!) My girl is petite so it was only 14 inches. I double that to get 28 and then added 8 more to come up with a total of 36. I used a white pencil and my ruler to help me figure out how to get a 36 inch square from my bundle of felt and then cut it out (using regular scissors, NOT fabric scissors, and it came out just fine for this non-sewing mama). Note: The blog post I got this from said she made a 42 inch felt square for her daughter, so make sure you take measurements before buying fabric as there is quite a bit of difference among children's sizes.
2) Fold the fabric twice to make a square half the size of the original. (Mine was 18 inches. Hers was 21 inches.)
3) On the edge that is NOT folded, cut a curved line from one corner to the other. (obSEUESSed includes a photo if you want to see how this looks.)
4) This is the part that confused me at first, and I had to have Brett read the directions and explain them to me, "While folded, mark 4 inches from the folded corner on both folded sides. Cut a curved line from each mark. This creates a 16 inch waist opening. It will be adjustable." (quote from obSEUSSed)
Now that I read this again, it makes sense. Basically, you are cutting away a section that has two straight lines and one curved line that has a 4 inch radius. Once you unfold the fabric it turns out to be a full circle with a 16 diameter. (Again, check her photos if you need clarification.)

5) With the fabric unfolded, cut a line from the outside edge to the inside edge. It doesn't matter where you cut, but I did try to get a relatively straight line. Now you have made the basic skirt, and you are on to the easy (and fun!) part: embellishment!

6) I decided that I wanted the cut part to be in the back of the skirt, and then I decided to place the poodle on the lower right are of the skirt (as seen when she is wearing it.) Since my applique was an iron-on, I just heated up my iron and followed the package directions, flipping over the fabric and ironing from the reverse side. It said to apply heat for just 30 seconds I believe, but I found that it took 3 repetitions before it was set. To be on the safe side, I had a kitchen towel in between my iron and the felt so that may have been the reason for the delay. (Note: While it saved me time, using the applique was more expensive that her version with the homemade poodle. Even though, I didn't buy it recently, it seems fair to mention that I priced this out at around $6 at Jo-Ann.)

7) Once the poodle was placed, I laid out my pearl trim and arranged it to make a couple of fun loops, making its way to the upper left corner of the skirt. After my glue gun was hot, I used it to adhere the pearl trim in my chosen design. (Note: Again, I had purchased this long ago, and I did not occur to me to figure out a price. I think I used just under a yard of the stuff, which is essentially the same as a little girl's pearl necklace except that it is broken. Well, I am pretty sure we have a broken necklace laying around somewhere that I could have used if I were being more frugal!)

8) I blinged out the poodle further with a black pom pom (already had this) for the tail, and that cute turquoise rhinestone trim, both of which I applied with my hot glue gun.

{After adding the poodle and trim}

9) For the closure, I did it differently that obSEUSSed. She just used two 1-inch sections of the "pokey" side of the Velcro, which she says will cling to the material and make it adjustable. I used 3 inches of both sides for extra security since she was going to wear it ALL day at school. I had extra left over, so I can always adjust the sizing down the road, since this is bound to become a Halloween costume at some point. First, I used a 1 inch section of the soft side and ironed it to the the inside corner (so that when she would wear the skirt, the other end would fold over it -- this was where I ironed the corresponding 1 inch section of the "pokey" side of the Velcro. (Per directions on the package at the store, I flipped the fabric over and ironed from the reverse side, holding it down for 90 seconds.) Then, I had Mia try the skirt on, and I decided to place another set of 1 inch Velcro tabs, so that there was about 2 1/2" gap between them. There was a lot of excess material, so I cut away some from the inside fold so that it would lay better. Then, I added another set of hook/loop closures to the bottom of the skirt. The placement was determined by where the material was hitting, kind of the opposite of what I had done with the waist closure.

In the end, the poodle skirt didn't fit her quite as well as I had hoped, but it was definitely good enough for a "costume." I simply told her that she had to wear leggings underneath, just in case. Fortunately, she didn't mind and she was really thrilled to have her very own poodle skirt, enthusing that she had "always wanted one!" (This was news to me, but I was happy that she was happy. Also, I made a poodle skirt! Who wouldn't be excited to realize she could do that?!)