Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Unexpected Houseguest

{This unknown variety of caterpillar was found in the snow today.}

On this snow day, we had a surprise to go along with our snowmen. I was completely caught off guard to find this fellow curled up in a ball on top of the snow at the base of our play structure in the backyard. My first instinct was to pick him up and show the kids because they are intrigued by all things nature-related. I immediately regretted that decision, however, because Mia wanted to save him.

My thoughts ran along the lines of Who knows where he came from? Perhaps he was hibernating and we happened to unearth him? Maybe he is better off left where he is? And then, What could possibly be alive in the snow in Michigan in February?! Surely nothing good. His unfortunate brownish-gray coloring plus the implausibility of finding him alive in the first place made me think that it had to be something truly vile that we wouldn't even want to try to keep alive. Still I wondered, Is this going to turn into a moth or a butterfly? Then the niggling part of my brain kicked in again, suggesting, It's probably something awful like a larval parasite ... Better not take the chance.

Then, thinking my mind was made up, I set the caterpillar back down in the snow. Mia seemed very sad at the thought that he would die there. Cue the mom guilt here. I decided that I would rather my kids remember "the time we tried to save the caterpillar we found in the snow" instead of "the time that Mom left that caterpillar to die in the snow."

You can probably guess what happened next. I am not sure exactly what sort of caterpillar this is, or how well it will fair at our house. I do know that he has a lovely new residence: a glass jar with some tulle netting held on with a rubber band. (It turns out that a lid punched with holes not only provides inadequate ventilation, but it can also injure the caterpillar, according to my quick Google search "how to keep a caterpillar alive in a jar." Also, I now have a lid with holes punched in it, so this jar may not have too many future uses.)

The same Google search informed me that our new caterpillar was likely doomed since they are reportedly picky eaters. This site claimed they would sooner starve than eat the wrong food, and suggested that we offer the plant it was found on since that is the preferred food. Great idea, except that this guy was in the snow. He had no food anywhere nearby that I could see. Even though I tried to find pictures that even remotely resembled our new caterpillar, I had little luck identifying him. This meant that he was offered the leaves from some celery and some romaine lettuce since those were the only leafy items available at our house. It turns out that our caterpillar is not a picky eater, after all. Romaine lettuce suited his tastes just fine, at least for now.

That just reinforces my belief that he is a mutant who is going to turn into something gross if given the chance. Thankfully, he has no name. Yet. He is currently burrowing in the lettuce leaves, which Mia says are his blanket. She is getting attached, so I hope that he at least makes it through the night. I'm reminding myself that this will be a good childhood memory: "Remember that time Mom let us keep the caterpillar and it turned into a gorgeous butterfly..."

{See, Wikipedia, you're wrong. Our mutant is quite fond of Romaine lettuce. Maybe he senses that I went against my better judgment to keep him around. Or, maybe I'm just that awesome at caring for wild things. Handy for a mom, don't you think?}

I Stand Corrected

{Snow Day fun!}

Well, it turned out that the lone baby snowman wasn't the only snowman of the winter at our house. Today was a snow day that yielded a few more sizable snowmen, as well as several paths of grass that were revealed in the process. The snowmen are somewhat dirty and full of leaves and twigs, but again, they count. More importantly, we had fun making them.

{She was quite proud of the 6-ball snowman.}

{This guy loves snow painting, especially with yellow, for some reason.}

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snowman Success!

Finally. We made our first, and quite likely, our last snowman of this winter. (Unless you are counting the ones that we made from shaving cream, salt, or marshmallows.) This snowman is small, and relatively unadorned, but he has to count since he is authentically made out of snow. Mia made his eyes, nose, and buttons using green snow paint. Then, she attempted to add a small icicle nose, but it sort of shattered his little snow head. Fortunately, this was rebuilt with no fuss.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


This is me waving my white flag. I am not even sure what I am surrendering to at this point. I just know that I am exhausted from daily chaos, and I don't know if I can take one more thing at the moment. The kids are in bed, and not without much effort on my part, and Brett has gone off to his latest meeting at church, which if I am being honest, was not where he was most needed tonight, but that is something that I will try not to get into...

I don't even know where to begin, but since I am just venting for self-indulgence, I guess I won't worry too much about the format of my writing. Sunday was kind of exhausting. Logan had a nasty, nasty sounding cough. It caused us to miss church, which always seems to put me in a negative mindset for the week, unfortunately.

The big deal for that day was that Brett went to pick up the "big boy bed" we finally got for Logan on Craigslist. My job was to get Logan's room ready for the transition. I picked up toys and then I spent a fair chunk of time taking apart the crib (and trying not to be sad about what that means). My frustrations included dropping one section on my shin, where I now have a bruise in a lovely shade of purple, and somehow putting a four inch split in one section. I still am having some carpal tunnel type feeling in my right wrist as a result of using that dumb little allen wrench for so long. Then, I vacuumed the room, and let Logan know what was happening.

Me: "Daddy went to buy you a big kid bed!"

Logan: (Excitedly) "With a ladder?!"

Me: "No..."

Logan: "Then how will me climb up?"

Me: "It's not a bunk bed. You don't need a ladder."

Logan: (Clearly disappointed) "But me want to sleep up by the ceiling."

Unfortunately, I had not thought to ask about whether or not the people were smokers, and he came home with a smelly bed that needed a good cleaning. I wiped it down with a damp cloth first, and once that got filthy, I rinsed it and kept going until it got dirty again. I cleaned away what we think was cat hair, although I am hoping we are wrong because I am almost positive that Logan is allergic to cats. So, brilliant me, right? I buy him a bed that smells and is covered with things that he is likely allergic to or at least things we know will exacerbate his already congested condition. Awesome. The good news is that I got rid of most of the smell by rubbing my 50/50 mixture of olive oil and citrus peel-infused vinegar into the the entire bed frame, letting it dry, and then repeating the next day (when Brett went to buy a mattress). This made it look and smell much better, although not as perfect as I would have liked.

Then, I had to cancel our play date we had scheduled for yesterday. It was good that I did, however, because Logan's sickness was worse then. He has this sort of hypersensitive gag reflex, meaning that a runny nose and Logan do not mix well. He tends to gag and then vomit. Plus, if he coughs too hard or just gets upset and cries too hard, that will trigger the gagging, and in turn, the vomiting. Ugh. This happened three times yesterday.

The first time, I think Brett was pretty annoyed because he told me to take him to the bathroom, assuming that I would get him to be sick in the toilet. Instead, I had him sit on my lap in an effort to have him calm himself down by deep breathing. Honestly, I think my method is better because it shows him that he can be in control of this, not just reinforcing his instinct to panic and decide that he must throw up. This is just a snippet of our communication woes, that I swear I am not going to air in public format. (Talking to myself, here.) On the positive side, he did take the day off from work so that I could take Mia to her appointment without dragging Logan along, and this turned out to be good timing since he was too sick to go out anyway.

My poor little man is a total sweetheart. The last time he got sick was all over me (and incidentally, Cheez-it crackers and mucous do not play well together). I was feeling a bit bummed about the state of my new yoga pants and my even newer "go-out-in-public hoodie" (sad, I know, but I just started taking a dance class so I wanted decent looking stuff to wear). However, it was hard to feel upset when I saw how sad Logan felt about this, saying "I'm sorry I throwed up on you."

We had a freak accident on Monday, as well. Brett and I were eating lunch while Logan had decided he really wanted to try out his new bed (even if it wasn't a much-coveted bunk bed). We didn't see what happened, but as far as we can tell, he had tried to drag his crib mattress over to the new-to-him bed frame. In the process, he somehow ended up hitting a nightlight, which must have shattered and "exploded" in a burst of heat or something. Anyway, once I responded to the yelling, I saw the remains of the nightlight and the blackened, charred looking spot on the outlet. He says there was no fire, but who knows? Nothing was blown in the circuit breaker, according to Brett. It was just so, so bizarre, and I was trying to not shake from the realization that we were quite lucky that something really awful did not happen to hurt our little man.

As if that were not enough for one day, I took Mia for her well-check, and I was completely floored to learn that she has a double ear infection since she has had no symptoms except maybe a little bit a tiredness and moodiness that I attributed to mid-winter blahs. Not only are both ears infected, but the left one has so much fluid in it, that she actually failed her hearing test in that ear. I was pretty blown away to learn that. So, she started taking over-the-counter children's antihistamines to hopefully clear things up, and she will go back to have her hearing re-tested in a month.

Monday night did end okay, at least. Brett got the new mattress for the new-to-us bed. He was able to replace the charred outlet. I made the bed up with the Lightning McQueen bedding that we have had put aside since around Christmas. Brett added the bed rail that we used when Mia first transitioned to her big kid bed. The most amazing thing of all, was that he slept in his bed, all night, for the first time in perhaps three months. Not in the hallway, not sneaking into our bed at some point in the middle of the night. In his own bed. All. Night.

He even woke up feeling very much improved. He wasn't really coughing all that much. However, I didn't want to take any chances with that hair trigger gag reflex of his. This meant we couldn't go into Mia's school for the morning to volunteer like we normally do on Mondays. (There was no school yesterday since it was President's Day, so I was planning to go in this morning, instead.) And we couldn't go to story time at the library either.

Mia, who had initially been very excited since it was the 100th Day of School, came home a bit grumpy. She was mad about the outfit I had chosen, which she had approved of in the morning, but now was annoyed by. I think it was because Mrs. Myers took her picture since she was dressed like a little old lady, which was what the classroom newsletter had said to do. Mia had initially told me she didn't want to dress like an old lady, so maybe she felt duped. I selected a denim jumper with coordinating pink turtleneck for her to wear, which really isn't that far-fetched since it was part of her regular wardrobe. We added a chunky hand-knit sweater that she has always refused to wear in the past, some chunky socks (these are what really aggravated her, I think, since they kept falling down, plus she had bare knees and came home sporting a bandage on one knee that she said got a rug burn when she tripped and fell down), and a pearl necklace. She wore her hair in a bun. She didn't really look like a 100 year old but it was the best I could do, channeling my own grandma, although she is not going to be 100 for a few more years yet.

Anyway, Mia was not happy. By the time Brett left to go to his meeting, she was getting a bit ornery. I wanted the kids to pick up their toys so we could read some books before bed, but she got frustrated by Logan not helping and started to throw things. Then, when she ended up in time out, she threw things at me. This meant time out in her room, and she was less than thrilled by that. After she came
stomping back downstairs, uninvited, and things got ugly. I told her she was down to two choices: clean or go to bed. She did not want to do either. Then, she shoved Logan down. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by this point and carted her up the stairs again, saying, "I'm sorry, but you've lost your chance to choose now. You need to go to bed." It was a struggle, but each step got a bit easier: use the bathroom, put on pajamas, brush teeth, pick out clothes for school, until she was no longer fighting me. I think she had realized that she was exhausted and she was ready to surrender, even if it was 25 minutes before her regularly-scheduled bedtime. She climbed into bed (higher now with a new box spring, courtesy of Daddy) and let me tuck her in and kiss her goodnight without once fighting me. I told her, "This was not a good night, but tomorrow is a new day and new chance to try again. I love you." I tried my best to be the calm, rational adult, and I may have succeeded to some extent. Yet, I am feeling defeated.

This is me waving my white flag. I am not even sure what I am surrendering to at this point. I just know that I am exhausted from daily chaos, and I don't know if I can take one more thing at the moment. The kids are in bed, and not without much effort on my part. I think I will go eat some chocolate and then take myself off to bed. Thank you, God, for giving me the strength to make it this far. And, thanks, too, that I get to have a new chance again tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Change of Heart

I got up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday, or something, because I was feeling quite cynical about the whole Valentine's Day thing. I wished Brett a "Happy Hallmark holiday" at breakfast and even he thought I was being a bit negative and he informed me that he was at least going to tell me "Happy Valentine's Day" despite the fact that we don't exchange cards or anything along those lines, or at least, we haven't done that for quite some time... I don't remember when we quit doing that. Perhaps, when we had kids?

I made a point of telling him not to bother buying me a "crappy teddy bear, flowers that were marked up 300%, or cheap chocolates." He said, "Well, what if I wanted to buy you expensive chocolate?" I conceded, "Well, okay, you can buy me expensive chocolate, but I don't see why you have to do it today. I'd rather you do it because you see it and think of me and not just because you feel like you have to." He seemed to get my point, saying, "So you don't want me to buy it because it's the social convention?" Bingo. I mean, what's romantic about buying something because you feel that you have to? And then there's the fact that the gifts I mentioned are so generic. It doesn't seem very thoughtful to give the most important person in your life something that is so readily available and requires absolutely no thought. He gave up the discussion and headed off to work.

Logan and I dropped Mia off at school and then headed to Kroger. It wasn't our normal grocery day. We had missed that since Mia had been home sick the day before. However, it turned out that a simple trip to the grocery store was just what I needed for an attitude adjustment. It didn't happen immediately. As soon as we parked, I noticed a man walking out the door with his bouquet of tissue-wrapped flowers and my first thought was something sarcastic along the lines of: Sucker! This poor schmuck paid way, way, way too much for that grocery store bouquet. Then, another man came out the door carrying a similar bouquet. Okaaaaay. They're getting their day started by taking care of the purchases first thing, was all I could think. Once we got inside the doors, there was a man holding a card. I couldn't tell what it looked like because he held it so tightly, but it made me smile to realize how important that card was to him. We made our rounds through the produce section and on the way back, I noticed there was now a line-up at the floral counter. I saw that one guy was holding a potted orchid and I silently applauded him for having the sense to get something other than a blah grocery store bouquet that would wilt in a few days time. This again brought a little smile to my face.

As we made our way through the store, aisle by aisle, I noticed more men making similar purchases. There was a man palming a box of assorted chocolates, the cheap ones that I abhor, and it actually made me smile. He, too, was clutching his card tightly, as if his life depended upon the words that someone else had written to describe his love for a special person. But, just when my bah humbug holiday blues were starting to melt, I got into my money-saving coupon mode, debating some cereal purchases with a store employee. (This particular fellow has struck up several conversations with me in the past few months, always when I have my coupons out, and almost always when I am considering cereal, which is one of the few things I stock-pile like a kind of/sort of/not really mad woman. Really, I am normal, okay?) Anyway, the idea of getting good deals made me revert back to my original negative mindset of wondering why these guys were blindly buying junk for their wives and girlfriends, and paying so much more than they needed to on their gifts. Then, along comes the man with the cheesy heart-shaped balloon that says "I Love You" on it, and although I am wondering what he is thinking? to buy something so utterly useless, I feel the muscles of my face actually forming a smile at the ridiculous sight.

This is when it finally starts to dawn on me. I'm actually enjoying watching this scene play out over and over. I find myself thinking, I could spend longer at the store just to watch a bunch of guys pick out gifts for their valentines. And, wouldn't it be really sweet to see them deliver them? I would love to see how the women respond. I assume they will love the gifts, generic though they may be, because hello? I am grinning from ear to ear at the sight of them and I don't even know these fools! So, I'm a big old softie, okay? I have a hopeless romantic side. I just try to mask it with my practicality. Talk about being at war with myself.

After this particular shopping trip, I felt inspired. I changed from my snarky thoughts of Hallmark, Schmallmark to remembering that there is joy in sharing love, even if it means doing silly things. We went home and I whipped up a batch of brownies, (made with good chocolate, of course) which I left to cool while we headed off to Mia's classroom party for some Valentine's Day fun, and I was now certain that it would, indeed, be fun. After we got home, I made a yummy dinner. It was simple, but I knew everyone in the family would enjoy it and that seemed especially important now that I was in the mood to celebrate love. I served spaghetti, semi-homemade cheesy garlic bread, tossed salad, and the brownies, which I had cut into hearts and garnished with fresh strawberries and blueberries. They looked and tasted sweet.

When Brett asked me why I had made heart-shaped brownies for dessert, I told him the simple truth that was now obvious even to dense-headed me: I did it because I wanted to. I didn't do it because I had to do it. I didn't do it because it was a special holiday (well, okay, maybe that factored in a bit). I did it because I love my family and I wanted to show that love the best way that I know how.

Valentine's Day Sun Catchers

My friend, Kim, first told me about this sun catcher craft two years ago as a Valentine's project, and we have made many, many sun catchers since then such as these shamrocks, these Dr. Seuss-inspired fish, these Easter sun catchers, these autumn sun catchers, and these Christmas sun catchers, to name a few. Interestingly enough, this was actually the first time we made them for Valentine's Day. Anyway, I decided that it would be a nice project to do with the kindergarten class for Mia's classroom party. This was one of those times when I got into the thick of it and realized I may have bitten off more than I could chew. It's not a hard project, but it does require plenty of adult prep, and trying to make enough for 25 kids plus a few extras (I planned for a total of 30 Valentine's Day sun catchers), takes awhile. Thankfully, the kids loved it, the parents were impressed, and the teacher and para-pro thought it was the perfect craft: no glue, no glitter, no kids running with scissors... what's not to love from their perspective, right? I thrive compliments, so it made me feel good that my time was well-spent.

One mom asked me if they really do shine through and look pretty in the windows, and I told her that they definitely do. It's a bit like stained glass. Plus, they hold up decently well. We pack ours away and bring them out again at the next year's holiday. There is some fading, but they still look attractive from one year to the next. So, I think this craft is a winner, all around.

  • construction paper (red, pink, and purple)
  • scissors
  • clear Con-tact paper
  • colored tissue paper (red, pinks, purples, other heart or similar patterned papers)
  • paper trimmer (optional)
  • clear tape (for hanging)

  1. Cut colored tissue paper into small squares. Older kids can do this themselves, but I did all the prep work myself before the party. I used approximately 1 inch squares, but you could make yours bigger or smaller depending on the age of the children. Tip: To make this process go faster, layer a couple of pieces of tissue paper together, cut into smaller rectangles, and then cut the rectangles into strips, re-layering as needed. Put as many strips together as you can comfortably cut before cutting smaller squares.
  2. Fold a piece of construction paper in half like a hamburger. 
  3. Fold the paper in half again, hamburger style, and use scissors to cut half a heart shape along the fold. Open the paper up. You should have two identical heart shapes cut onto one piece of paper that is still folded in half, hamburger style.
  4. Cut two pieces of clear Con-tact paper (I used both a paper trimmer and scissors for this.) so that they are at least 1/2 to 1 inch larger than the construction paper all the way around. Tip: Do not remove backing from contact paper until you are ready to use it.
  5. Adhere one side of the paper to the clear Con-tact paper so that there is a border of at least 1/2 inch all around the paper. Tip: Slowly peel the Con-tact paper away from the backing as you smooth the construction paper down onto the contact paper. This way you don't end up with "bubbles."
  6. Have your child stick tissue paper squares onto the Con-tact paper heat shape until it is filled. Tip: You can use two different colors or shades of the same color (pink, purple, etc.) of tissue paper to give the sun catcher a more complex design. It looks especially nice where the two colors have overlapped in places.
  7. Layer the other half of construction paper on top of the first, making sure that the heart shapes line up.
  8. Add the second piece of Con-tact paper over the top, smoothing it down as you go. Trim away excess if desired, but don't trim too much or the sun catcher will not stay together. 1/4 inch is the minimum border I would recommend.
  9. You can display your sun catcher in a window using clear tape. Another option is to use a hole punch to make two holes near the top, thread some ribbon or yarn through the holes, tie it off, and then hang your sun catcher.

If you are making this with a large group such as a kindergarten class, here are a few more tips:
  • Do your preparations in an assembly line fashion. Get all of the construction paper folded and cut, then cut all tissue paper, and lastly, cut all Con-tact paper to size (2 pieces per sun catcher).
  • If you have a paper trimmer, and if you Con-tact paper will fit into it, this will save you time. Otherwise, it is fortunate that it is printed with guidelines for you to follow with your scissors.
  • To get the project ready for the group, press hearts onto the Con-tact paper and lay out sticky side up on a table. 
  • I set out different colors of tissue paper in plastic bowls, which worked well.
  • The class did this project on the floor and that worked fine except for the occasional bit of dirt or something that got stuck to the Con-tact paper. It wasn't really a big deal, though. They just didn't have much extra table space available since they were eating ice cream sundaes.
  • Have kids write their names before starting to add tissue paper.
  • Do not peel off backing from the additional sheets on Con-tact paper until kids have finished their projects.
  • Have fun. You did all the "hard" work beforehand.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

This, Too, Shall Pass (Or So They Tell Me...)

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a pediatric nurse that went something like this:

Me: "Hi, I'm calling you back about the penny that Mia swallowed last week."

Nurse: "Oh, yes, I was kind of worried about that."

Me: "Well, she's been drinking more like you said she should (and in my mind I was adding the words, because apparently the doctor's advice holds more weight than Mama's...) and she's had five bowel movements since we last spoke. I have yet to find the penny."

Nurse: "And how is she acting?"

Me: "Well, every now and then she complains of some small pain, but it doesn't stop her from playing or acting like her normal self." (Again, in my mind I am saying, You know, like fighting with her brother?)

Nurse: "I don't think you have anything to worry about. Like I said before, if she acts like she can't catch her breath or starts vomiting, then you need to take her to the emergency room because that could mean there is a blockage."

Me: "Okay, that I can do. But what about the penny? I don't need to look for it anymore, right?

Nurse: "Well, I don't see why you would need to. Dr. said that should pass within 24-48 hours."

Me: "Okay, thank you." (And in my mind I'm asking her You mean I've been dissecting my kid's poop for a week and a half now when I could have stopped after two days?! Thanks so much for waiting to tell me that.)

You can't make this stuff up, right? This is my actual life. If you're wondering how this all started, I will tell you. It was about 5:00 on Friday evening, February 1st. I had just sent the kids to the living room to play while I finished up dinner. (And I thought I had been so smart to have them help me as much as possible first, but unfortunately, I had run out of things that they could safely do in the kitchen.) No sooner than Brett had sent me a text message letting me know he was running late (of course, wouldn't you know it?), Mia was screaming: "Mom! I swallowed a penny!!" The first thing I thought to ask her was, "What? Where did you find a penny?" (And in my head, I was wondering Why did you swallow it? Your school is saving them right now for the Red Cross, and I already gave all the pennies I could scrounge up to donate.) I know, I know, probably not the first thing I should be wondering about. Mia's response was something like, "There was a penny in the couch cushion and my mouth was open and then I shut my mouth and I swallowed it." Yeah. That makes about as much sense as my initial worry about why she would swallow a penny she could have taken to school.

Then, she was hysterical. She was crying hard and claiming that it really hurt, and the way she was clutching her chest made me worry that it might be lodged in her esophagus or something like that. I didn't want to upset her by thinking something might actually be wrong, so I just kept telling her that she needed to calm down and breathe. Then, I was trying to call Brett. No answer. I tried my mom's cell phone. No answer. My parents' house phone. No answer. So, I texted my sister-in-law. Seriously, why wasn't anybody available when I needed reassurance? A quick internet search yielded mixed results: some discussions claimed that this was not a big deal; one website in particular made it sound like a problem if the penny was minted after 1982 because of increased zinc levels or some such thing. All I could think about that was Really?! If I knew enough about this particular penny to say when it was minted, do you think it would be in my kid's gut right now? I decided to down-play it and finish dinner. Mia seemed to calm down, and it didn't seem so dire right then. I figured if she wasn't choking, turning purple, or throwing up, she was probably okay.

That night, she ate and drank a bit, and nothing came back up. I tried to convince myself that we were doing the right thing, but I still was up late with mom guilt, fretting that she might have a problem. I tried to get advice from friends who have kids. I chatted with my mother-in-law online, hoping that this had happened to Brett or one of his brother's, and it would all be okay. I was surprised to hear that nobody's kid had done something similar, but at least she made me feel like I was doing okay as a parent. I agreed that I would call the doctor if she was complaining of more pain in the morning.

Morning came, and I heard back from my sister-in-law whose input was to give her a Tums. I knew that wouldn't really do much, but I gave her one suggesting that it would help her tummy ache. She agreed, and thought it was yummy tasting. Then, she requested one every morning for the next few days. I finally talked to my mom, too. Her reaction was kind of extreme. (Sorry, if you are reading this, Mom, but it's true.) She thought I should call the ER. I don't think they even field phone calls. Plus, I figured if I took her there, they could only do an X-ray to locate the penny, nothing more. This seemed like something that would scare Mia and convince her that something was really wrong, so I wasn't about to do that. So, then, I lost my mind for a little bit thinking I was a lousy mom, and probably driving Brett nuts until I regained control and went back to my original plan. It helped that my friend Kim told me that her friend's husband was a pediatrician and he said Mia was fine as long as she wasn't throwing up, because that could indicate a blockage. I resolved to just find the darn penny so we could get on with our lives.

This proved to be easier said than done. I can't help but wonder if the penny was in the first small poop she had while I was taking a nap (Remember, I wore myself out with worry?), and I didn't learn about it until it was too late. It had already been flushed. I didn't get to actually investigate the poop until February 3rd, which according the this new info from the nurse, may have already been too late. Mia wasn't too sure about this, despite wanting to know that it was gone so the phantom belly aches would go away. She said to me, "This is going to be weird." I just slipped on a plastic glove and did what needed to be done, although, truthfully, I couldn't have agreed more. The following day, she let me know that she had pooped again, and since we had no more gloves, I grabbed a plastic baggie and headed to the bathroom. Mia stopped me and asked, "Are you sure you want to do that?" I replied, "No, I don't want to do this. I need to do this." Did she really think that I wanted to squish her poop apart with my fingers encased in a plastic bag? Not even a little bit.

I won't gross you out with details, but I kept a log for the next few days, noting when she had gone, and of course, that there was no appearance of the penny. She continued to complain of little tummy pains each time she went to the bathroom and when she got up each morning, so after a week, I called the doctor's office just to make sure that I shouldn't be doing something else. I might add here that the nurse made no mention of how long it typically takes for something like a penny to pass through the digestive system. She wanted me to call back on Monday with an update. I waited to call, hoping that Mia would go to the bathroom first and I could report that the penny situation had resolved itself. This didn't happen before the office closed for the day.

So, I had to call yesterday, when I had the afore-mentioned conversation. After all of that worry, and watching, and waiting, and did I mention the dissecting of several days worth of poop?!, I simply told Mia that the penny was already gone and she was fine. I had been telling her for a week and a half that it was no big deal and she was okay, (I may have been worried at times, but I never let on to her about it.) but once I told her the doctor said she was fine, she finally believed me. She hasn't complained of a tummy ache since yesterday's phone conversation. So much for Dr. Mom's assessment. Next time, I may just call the pediatrician's office sooner, even if I don't think it is really necessary. If nothing else it would have saved me from doing some dirty business.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shaving Cream Snowmen

Here is project #2 that we made on this "snow day." I decided that we had to make some snowmen. We attempted to build one 3 days ago when we had a snow day that truly involved snow, and enough of it for building a snowman. The only problem was that it wouldn't pack. So, alas, we have yet to build an actual snowman this year. This was another craft idea gleaned from the library story time lady. I already had the glue out, so it wasn't much of an effort to mix some shaving cream in with it.

{Snowman by Mia, Age 6}
  • construction paper
  • white glue
  • shaving cream
  • bowls
  • mixing spoon
  • paint brushes (optional)
  • pencil
  • decorative items: pom poms, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, felt, buttons, construction paper, etc.

  1. I started by tracing various sizes of bowls and other round things to make the snowman outlines onto two pieces of blue construction paper. Mia requested a 2-ball snowman, and Logan wanted a 3-ball snowman, although you can't see it any more since he went hog-wild with painting. You could skip this step and just let them paint, too.
  2. Squirt some shaving cream into a bowl. Add about 1/2 that amount of white glue and mix together with a spoon. (Tip: If doing this craft with more than one child, you may want one bowl per child.) My proportions are approximate. It should be spreadable and not too sticky.
  3. Have your child paint the snowman. My kids used a combination of mainly finger-painting with a small amount of using the Q-Tips left over from the previous project. You can also use paint brushes for this.
  4. Let your child decorate the snowmen. There are tons of options here. Mia used googly eyes, buttons for the mouth, an orange pom pom for the nose, pieces of scrap felt for a scarf, and my favorite accessory: ear muffs made from part of a pipe cleaner and two purple pom poms. I suggested twigs for arms but she didn't like that idea. Logan's snowman had turned into a big mess covering most of his paper. Rather than tossing it out, I suggested that we make it just the snowman's head, and he agreed. He made button eyes and a button mouth, which is frowning for some reason, but is still cute. We took a two-inch piece of orange pipe cleaner, folded it in half, and added it for the nose. I cut out a hat from black construction paper, and we trimmed the brim with a strip of yellow felt. We just added a bit of extra glue-shaving cream mixture to adhere it.
  5. Make sure the shaving cream/glue mixture dries completely before displaying your snowman craft.
    {Snowman by Logan, Age 3}

Q-Tip Snowflake Craft

Here is what we did this morning since it is another "snow day." This craft idea was one Logan and I learned at story time last month, and it seemed like a good time for a repeat since it was easy to quickly pull it together.I say "snow day" because most of the snow melted during last night's rain, and I am not 100% sure why school was cancelled. I assume the back roads were impassable due to a combination of ice, mud, and wind-blown nastiness. I am not about to go outside to figure out exactly why, though. The wind is really whipping right now and the kids are happily watching The Lion King.

  • construction paper
  • white glue
  • Q-Tips
  • scissors
  • small bowls to hold glue
  1. I started by folding the paper in half (hamburger fold) and then cutting it. You can use a whole piece of paper if you prefer.
  2. Pour a small amount of white glue into a bowl. (Tip: One bowl per child makes life easier.)
  3. Set out Q-Tips. (Tip: You can first cut some in half to give kids a little more variety, but this is not necessary.)
  4. Have kids dip Q-tips into the glue and then arrange onto the paper to form snowflake designs. These can be as simple or as intricate as they want. Allow glue to dry completely before displaying the snowflakes.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Birdseed Biscuits

Yesterday, we made an assortment of bird feeders, and today I realized that I did, in fact, have the ingredients to try one more than we learned about from the story time lady at the library. Making "Birdseed Biscuits" turned out to be a good afternoon activity, and not nearly as messy as the bird feeders involving peanut butter. I would definitely make these again, and they get my top recommendation for a good kid-friendly activity that kids can actually participate in.

What You Will Need:
  • 2 cups biscuit baking mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup birdseed
  • medium size mixing bowl
  • spoon
  • rolling pin
  • cookie sheet
  • parchment paper (optional)
  • cookie cutters
  • plastic drinking straw
  • butter (or margarine)
  • basting brush
  • yarn/string/twine
  • scissors
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix 2 cups of biscuit baking mix with 1/2 cup water to form a soft dough. Young kids can help pour and stir. Older kids can measure, too.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of birdseed. Form dough into a ball. Kids can help with this.
  4. Roll out dough. Kids can help with this. The directions we were given said to roll to 3/4" thickness, but we were successful with about 1/2" to 3/4" thickness. Any thinner, and it was hard for the cut-outs to keep their shape.
  5. Have kids cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Take extra dough, reshape into a ball, and roll out until all the dough is used up.
  6. Arrange cut-outs on a cookie sheet. This is probably best for an adult to do. (Tip: We lined ours with parchment paper first. This is not necessary, but it keeps your cookie sheet cleaner and makes removing the finished biscuits very easy.
  7. Use a plastic drinking straw to punch a hole into each biscuit. Kids can help with this step. (Tip: Make sure it goes all the way through and that it is not too close to the edges.)
  8. Melt butter or margarine and brush over the cut-outs. We used 1/2 tablespoon of butter. The directions we were given said to use margarine, but I don't buy that any more. Butter worked fine, and since it didn't specify how much to use, I decided to use a very small amount, which was just enough for the 12 biscuits we made. This step is more for an adult, so I did it myself.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until light brown. This is something for an adult to do. Then, while they are baking, cut a piece of yarn, string, or twine for hanging each biscuit. Older kids can help with this.
  10. Allow biscuits to cool. Then, thread your yarn, string, or twine through the hole, tie a knot, and hang them on a tree for the birds to enjoy. (Tip: I found it was easier to use the straw to push the yarn through the hole rather than trying to poke it through on its own.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feed the Birds...

Anybody else hear that old lady from Mary Poppins singing now? Okay, good. My work here is done. But seriously, this mama decided that a good snow day activity would be making bird feeders. Since it's me we're talking about, good old-fashioned pine cones were not enough. We had to make three more varieties in addition to the pine cone bird feeders. So, I think you can trust me when I tell you which ones are easier and less messy to make. I have ordered them from my personal favorite to my least favorite.

#1 Here is my top pick for a simple, mess-free bird feeder project that even a young child can do. We learned about this one from the story time lady at the library, and it is too good not to share. All you need is a pipe cleaner and some Cheerios or similar o-shaped cereal. Have the child string the cereal onto the pipe cleaner, leaving at least 1/2" on each end, twist it together to make a ring, and hang on a tree branch.

#2 The next best option is the cardboard tube bird feeder, which I had seen on Pinterest some time back. I took a cardboard tube that was left over from an empty aluminum foil package and used a serrated knife to cut it into two pieces (mainly because I have two kids, but also this makes it easier to work with since it was a tad on the long side). I gave each of the kids a piece of wax paper, a small bowl of peanut butter, and a knife to spread the peanut butter on the tubes. After I had to help both of them, Mia informed me that they had done this last year at preschool, but they had rolled the tubes in peanut butter on a plate. Had I known that beforehand, I would have had them do it that way. Once the tubes were coated with peanut butter, I gave them some birdseed to sprinkle/roll onto the tubes on a plate. This was a bit messy, but still very doable, especially now that I know the rolling trick. Plus, most people can scrounge up an empty toilet paper tube or paper towel tube without too much searching.

{Bird Feeders from left to right: pine cone, cardboard tube, cardboard cut out}

#3 Here is an old stand-by that I am sure everyone remembers doing as a kid: the pine cone bird feeder. This one is not at all complicated, but it is pretty messy. Mia tied her own yarn on first, and I tied Logan's yarn onto his pine cone. Again, my kids, ages 6 and 3, were frustrated by using a knife and these don't roll the best. Plus, the yarn got gloppy with peanut butter. We would not have even used pine cones if Mia hadn't located the pine cones that I had stashed away months ago in the event that we needed them for a craft project. (The pine cones would have all been buried under the new snow so you do need to plan ahead for this one.) So, this is definitely not the best option out there for home-made bird feeders.

#4 The last one is not something I would try again any time soon, to be perfectly honest. It was inspired by the latest issue of FamilyFun Magazine ("Birdseed Cafe" on page 18). They used corrugated cardboard cut in a star shape, with a circle cut in the center. Mia chose to make a (thankfully) simpler circle, which she did all on her own by tracing a bowl and cutting it out. We used a lighter weight cardboard, somewhere between boxboard and corrugated cardboard, but I don't know if there is a name for it. Logan chose a square, which I cut for him. We used baking sheets to hold the cardboard while I spread one side with peanut butter and then the kids sprinkled them with birdseed. Then, we flipped them over, I did the peanut butte again, and they did the birdseed. When we hung these outside, they immediately started spinning in circles since it was windy. Maybe the heavier cardboard would have been a better choice, but I still don't see how the birds are supposed to eat from this very easily. I guess that is why they cut a hole in the middle, but that seemed like a pain to me. I wanted a project the kids could mostly do on their own, and this is not it. The best tip I got from this one was using the baking sheets to help contain the mess.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rainbow Cupcakes

This is not an original idea, but it went along with the Care Bears party theme. I used this photo for inspiration. There are lots of variations all over the internet, but here is how I made these cupcakes for Mia to take to school on her birthday. I briefly flirted with the idea of making the inside layered with rainbow colors like I had done last March, but I decided that the work I was putting into the outside was more than enough for something that was going to be served to a bunch of kindergarten kids. They looked nice, and they were tasty, too.

  1. First, I made a double batch of my favorite white cake recipe, which yielded 28 cupcakes. I made them in rainbow striped cupcake liners which I had gotten at Jo-Ann. (Of course, you can use store-bought cake mix. This is just how I did it.)
  2. Next, I made a batch of buttercream frosting. (Again, use store bought if that is your preference, but in my opinion, you cannot beat homemade frosting.) I added 5 drops of neon blue food coloring and mixed it in with my hand mixer, which I had already used to make the frosting. I used an angled spatula to frost my cupcakes.
  3. I bought two packages of Airhead Xtremes Sweetly Sour Belts candy from Wal-mart. The flavor is called "Rainbow Berry" and they were about $1.28 a package. (I actually had to go back to buy a second bag after discovering that one bag has only 20 strips, so use this information to plan accordingly.) These come in strips that are about 5" long, and I cut them to about 3" and inserted each end into the frosting. Keeping them longer meant that the rainbows caved in on themselves, and just did not work to make the rainbows I was hoping for. I then saved the extra cuttings for snacking.
  4. I made the clouds by putting Cool Whip (left over from the layered rainbow Jell-O cups that I served at the party) into a baggie, snipping off a corner, and piping it onto the frosting.

Groundhog Day Goodies

Did anybody else see this idea in the latest issue of FamilyFun magazine (page 30)? I thought these Punxsutawney Phil pudding cups looked really cute. I already had some pudding mix and a bag of mini Oreos on hand that I had gotten when things were on sale of couple of weeks ago. (Mia has been wanting to make dirt cups, and we haven't done it yet.) Then, I picked up the Milano cookies yesterday while Logan and I were doing our weekly Kroger run. They were 1/2 off, so I figured that it was meant to be. Mine didn't come off quite as nicely as the magazine photos, but truly what recipe ever does? Also, I was a few days behind schedule, so what difference did it make at that point if they were not perfect.

I did make a couple of changes. The first couple were just common sense in my opinion. Instead of store-bought pudding cups which taste like what? Really, I am asking you because I don't know what they are supposed to taste like, it's a flavor I can't quite place, but it is surely not chocolate. Also, I make my pudding with whole milk. I know, I know, all you health-conscious types are going to hate me for saying that, but it makes the best pudding, hands down. The cookies crumbs are the mini Oreos, which I put in a baggie and crushed up with the base of a metal water bottle, not the chocolate wafers suggested by the magazine. Again, why would I purchase something that tastes like paper. Oreos are not exactly healthy, so I buy them only about once per year, but really, wafer cookies are just blech, so I wasn't about to use those.

I had sliced almonds and peanut butter chips on hand, so that was fine. One thing I will say, though is that cutting the almonds is not as simple as they make it sound. Getting the tops cut off for the semi-circle ears is not a big deal, but the direction "trim another almond into teeth as shown" should have a parenthetical addition that reads "easier said than done."

My biggest downfall, it seems, was ignoring the direction to use chocolate frosting for gluing the face together. Instead, I decided I would try piping peanut butter from a baggie. I don't know if it would have worked better with regular peanut butter, but I have been buying only natural peanut butter for the past few months, and it was a bit runny. Since I didn't have the chocolate frosting, I used the peanut butter to glue on mini chocolate chips for the eyes and nose. The faces kind of melted downward after being assembled. I told my husband I was serving "Franken-gophers" for dessert, which he found amusing. So, my Groundhog day treats didn't look magazine worthy in the end, but they did taste really good, and you have to admit, that is what really matters in a dessert.

Thank You Cards for Care Bear Party

These are the photo thank you cards that I designed to go along with the Care Bears birthday party. The photos are the ones I took at the party using my home-made Cheer Bear photo prop. I made a simple fill-in-the-blank format so that Mia could help fill out the cards because I think that this helps teach gratitude, or at the very least, it helps with teaching social conventions associated with gratitude. My goal was not just to have her write "thanks for the gift," but also to let her know that we were thanking people for making her day special. For me, having a child's birthday party is about giving her an experience that she will remember as being a fun time spent with friends and family, and I want to pass this belief on to my children.

  • red card stock
  • paper trimmer
  • word processing software
  • printer
  • scissors
  • scalloped scissors
  • photos
  • clear adhesive photo corners
  • scrapbooking adhesive 
  • white printer paper
  • envelope template (optional)
  1. Using a paper trimmer, I cut the 8 1/2" x 11" card stock in half (hamburger fold) to get two pieces of paper. Next, I folded each one in half (hamburger fold again) so that I had two cards.
  2. For the cover of the card, I found an image of Birthday Bear, copied it into Microsoft Word and adjusted the size so that I could fit 8 images on the page (in landscape format). I printed and cut out the images with scalloped scissors. Then, I affixed them to the center of the cards using scrapbooking adhesive squares.
  3. For the wording on the front, I used the word art feature in Microsoft Word to type "Caring is Sharing!" for the upper arch and the date of the party on the lower arch. The font was "Care Bears Family" and it was a free download found here. I fit 9 of these upper arch over lower arch per page in landscape format. After printing, I used scissors to cut them into banners, following the curves of the text. Lastly, I cut into each end in a "v" to make the flags on the end of each banner. These were adhered to the front of the card using scrapbooking square adhesives that had first been cut in half.
  4. For the inside of the card, I had the photos printed. Then, I used my paper trimmer to cut them down so that they would fit inside. I used clear scrapbooking photo corners, one per corner, to affix these to the inside of the card (on the left).
  5. For the fill-in-the blank format that I put on the right side of the inside of the thank you cards, I again used the "Care Bears Family" font to type: "Dear _____________, Thanks for sharing in my 6th birthday fun! Thanks also for the ______________________________. It made me smile! Your friend, _____________" I used this image of Cheer Bear to tie it all together. (This was also used in the invitations, and of course, the photo prop.) I was able to get 4 of these fill-in-the-blank templates per page in portrait format. After printing, I trimmed them with my paper trimmer and adhered them with the scrapbooking adhesive squares.
  6. The rest was up to Mia. I helped her fill in the names and the information about the gifts, and then she signed her name to each one.
  7. I made some envelopes with white printer paper and my template that I bought many years ago at Michaels, wrote each child's name on the front, and sealed them with some Care Bears stickers that were a gift from my brother. You can use store bought envelopes if you don't want to make your own. I just have been making my own cards for so long that I don't typically have the right size envelope on hand, so I make those, too.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Welcome to Care-a-Lot! (A Care Bears Themed Birthday Party)

As soon as Christmas was over, Mia was asking me when we were going to start making things for her birthday party, which was last Saturday. This gave me about a month to get everything ready. She had chosen the Care Bears theme, and it didn't take me too long to discover that it wasn't something I could find in any stores. There were a few things on Amazon and eBay, but nothing that seemed worth the cost. I wasn't too concerned, though, because Mia agreed that we could do a lot of "rainbow" colors for decorations and such instead of focusing just on Care Bears.

Plus, I love a creative challenge. I think that is why I do parties in kind of a crazy-big way, not that I think it isn't important to celebrate my kids' milestones. I do, of course, or we wouldn't do it. Truly, though, this mama loves herself a good project, and doing themed birthday parties allows me to express myself creatively with quite a few of them. Thankfully, Mia's desire for advanced planning helped me pull it off without getting getting too stressed out. In fact, I feel pretty fulfilled for making her 6th birthday party a success.

The Invitations:
I designed a fairly simple invitation in Microsoft Word that would allow me to print 4 per page. At the top, I centered this "Have a Rainbow Day" image. For the wording, I used this free "Care Bear Family" font that I downloaded. (This is fun because the punctuation includes hearts.) I used different colors of the rainbow to set apart the key words: red for "What," orange for "When," yellow for "Where" (Note that the where is "Care-a-Lot" and I added our address in parentheses.), green for "RSVP," blue for "Cell," and purple for "Home." After the important information, I typed "Please help share in the birthday cheer!" emphasizing the words share and cheer because they related to the Care Bears theme. I also added "Your presence is your present," which didn't make too much difference, but it was worth a try. I included this image of Cheer Bear, which I made smaller and flipped in my word processing program. After printing, I cut them apart with my paper trimmer, used scalloped scissors to add decorative trim to the top and bottom edges, and then adhered them to red card stock.

The Decorations: 
I tied together some Dollar Tree balloons (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) and had my husband put them on the mailbox, but they must have blown away at some point during the party.

Guests were greeted at the front door by a fun "Welcome to Care-a-Lot" sign that I made from a cardboard box and acrylic paint. The wording is again done in Microsoft Word with that same free font. You can find complete directions for the sign here.

I made these super simple and very inexpensive zig zag streamers following the directions I found on this blog. My only change that I would suggest is to specify that I used construction paper that was first trimmed in half (like a hot dog). Then, I saved myself some time by cutting several pieces at once. They don't need to look perfect. I used Scotch tape to hang them from the entryway to the dining room, three of each color: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. I had one extra streamer per color, so I hung them at the end of the hallway going into the kitchen, so that when people came in the front door, they saw the same rainbow: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

The buntings on the ceiling were probably the most annoying thing for me to do for this entire party. I am not sure I even would have done this if Mia hadn't caught me looking at the picture online (which did not include any directions, by the way) and announced that she really wanted it for a decoration. I knew it would be inexpensive, so I decided to give it a try. I purchased some 97 cent table cloths from the party aisle at Wal-mart (red, orange, yellow, and green -- plus I already had the blue one that I had found at a garage sale over the summer -- for 10 cents). I cut the table cloths in half, and then folded each one in half again, length-wise, so that they were not as transparent. I used pieces of double stick adhesive that I had cut prior to getting started. They were about 1" squares, and I used at least 3 or 4 per section. (And then, I was climbing up again the following day to apply a bit more since some were falling down...) The white balloon cloud came from that same Dollar Tree bag of balloons (There were really quite a few in there, maybe about 45, so it was a pretty good deal.) and is tied together with light blue curling ribbon (also purchased from Dollar Tree two years ago). I also had a purple table cover from Wal-mart that I trimmed to fit our dining room table and our card table, taping down the ends so it didn't slip.

The Food:
Since we were having a party with the most of the girls from the kindergarten class, and then having some family afterward, I wanted to keep the food simpler than I have in the past. (Basically, I told myself I am not serving a full meal, and I made myself stick to it.) I didn't even make a "fancy" themed drink; I just offered milk, apple juice, or water. I am kind of proud of myself for this. And they ate and drank from our regular kids' plates and cups from IKEA, because I hate buying stuff that would just get thrown away. For food, I offered crackers and heart shaped cheese. I took some sliced deli cheese that I already had and then used my little metal heart cookie cutter (actually, I think it's meant for fondant, but you get what I mean). I thought about doing a rainbow veggie platter, but my kids are not huge fans of peppers so I just did red grape tomatoes, orange carrots, and green cucumber slices so it wasn't truly a rainbow.

One of my only big to-dos for food was making the rainbow fruit kabobs, which were inspired by this photo. I used bamboo skewers, which I broke about in half. On each one, I threaded a whole strawberry, an orange slice, 3 canned pineapple pieces (note for future reference: buy something larger than tidbits), a slice of kiwi, a couple of blueberries, and a couple of purple grapes. Then, I cut off the sharp end of the skewers, and arranged them on my tray.

My other kind-of-a-big-deal food was 6 layered rainbow Jell-O cups, which were inspired by this blog. I used 5 ounce clear plastic cups that were left over from my failed chocolate business (waste not, right?). I did this as inexpensively as possible by getting Kroger brand gelatin for as many layers as possible, and I also bought as many sugar free varieties as I could get since the kids wouldn't likely know the difference, and why give them more sugar if I didn't need to? I bought the small 3 ounce boxes (0.3 ounces for sugar-free varieties). I used the quick-set method involving ice cubes, so each layer set up for about 20 minutes before I was adding the next layer on top. (I actually had this almost down to a science by the end: put Jell-o in refrigerator, set timer for 15 minutes, wash bowl and spoons, put water on to boil around when timer went off, repeat...) I guesstimated that 2 tablespoons of each flavor would be about right, and it was nearly perfect for making 16 cups. (I had determined that 16 cups was the max amount that would fit in my cake pan, and I planned to put the Jell-o cups in the pan to make it easier for all the in-and-out of the refrigerator. It was a great tip I had picked up here.) My layers from bottom to top were: Grape Jell-O, Berry Blue Jell-O, Kroger Sugar-free Lime Gelatin, Sugar-free Lemon Jell-O, Kroger Sugar-free Orange Gelatin, and Kroger Sugar-free Cherry Gelatin. I topped the rainbow cups with Cool Whip "clouds" and served them with the cake in lieu of ice cream. One good thing about this was that I didn't have to dish up any ice cream.

The Cake:
I promised Mia a Care Bear cake, and I used this photo for my inspiration. I used my favorite white cake recipe and tinted the batter pink with Wilton icing color, purchased from Jo-Ann with my coupon. The head is a 9" round and the body is a 10" round. Plenty of cooking spray and waxed paper cut to fit the cake pans helped ensure that the cakes came out without breaking apart. I also used my cake knife to trim them so that they were flat before frosting them. The neck looked a bit skinny, and my cake, overall, was quite short since I should have doubled my recipe. I made 6 (short) cupcakes. One is the muzzle. One is cut in half and used for the ears. The other four are the paws. All are covered with plenty of frosting to keep them glued together.

For frosting, I made the Wilton buttercream recipe, which I again, tinted pink, and applied with an angled spatula. The center of the ears, the belly, and the mouth/nose area of Cheer Bear are all done with plain white buttercream that I had set aside.

It is fortunate that Valentine's Day is around the corner because that meant that seasonal heart-shaped candies were easy to find. Cheer Bear's nose is a red cinnamon jelly candy, which came in a bag for $1 at Kroger. The foot pads are pink marshmallow Peep hearts. I cut one in half, and placed the sticky sides down on the frosting. The eyes are a regular marshmallow, which I cut in half, and again, placed the sticky sides down. Then, I used black decorating gel to make the pupils. The freckles are red non-pareils (which I got for $1 at Target last Christmas). I used red decorating gel for the mouth and eyebrows. The most important part of Cheer Bear is her rainbow belly badge, which I made using red, orange, yellow, green, and blue mini M&Ms. (Note: The leftovers made delicious cookies, and I think I will buy the mini size for baking from now on.)

My cake display was a piece of cardboard that I cut to the size I wanted. Then, I took some colored tissue paper from Dollar tree, and folded it so that the 5 bands of color: pink, red, yellow, green, and blue all fit in approximately equal amounts. I used Scotch tape to affix the tissue paper to the back side. I used more wax paper circles on top of the tissue paper to try to avoid having the buttercream completely soak the tissue paper. It didn't work perfectly, but I am sure it didn't hurt either. I found these tall rainbow colored candles at Wal-mart for about $1.50 and the birthday girl was quite happy with the whole cake presentation overall.

The Activities:
When guests arrived, they each got a party had that I made from colored cardstock using this template and directions. I made 2 hats of each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Brett helped me assemble them, since I was struggling with getting the tabs into the slots correctly. Then, I found images of Care Bears online, put them in Microsoft Word, adjusted them so that they were all the same size, and printed them. I cut them out, leaving about a narrow white border. Then, I applied them to the hats with Mod Podge and a foam paint brush. After they dried, I added the ribbon ties. The directions didn't say how much ribbon to use, or even what kind of ribbon to use. I used narrow ribbons, about 1/8" wide, most of which I already had at home. I needed to buy orange and blue, so I got those at Wal-mart for about 50 cents each. (I actually got more of a turquoise shade because I planned to use it as hangers for the sun catchers they were going to paint.) It turned out that this project was kind of a waste because the hats wouldn't stay on the girls' heads, and when they were all leaving, there were some disagreements on who had which hat since I had used a different Care Bear for each, and apparently some are more desirable than others. Anyway, they looked great, but I am not sure I would take the time to make my own hats again, unless I used elastic cord, perhaps.

After they got their hats, I took their photos with my Cheer Bear photo prop, which was placed in front of yet another Wal-mart plastic table cloth. This one was a turquoise, which I thought would make a nice "sky" backdrop. It was doubled over and taped to our fake fire place.

Another party activity that we had was painting rainbow sun catchers that I had found in the craft aisle at Wal-mart for 53 cents each. To prepare before the party, I tied a narrow turquoise ribbon hanger to each one. I attached a piece of masking tape to each ribbon and folded it over to make a flag, which I wrote each child's name on. Then, I poured small amounts of sun catcher paint (which I borrowed, but you can get it from Oriental Trading) into small plastic cups with lids. These were also left over from my failed chocolate business so I didn't have to go out and buy them. I used 2 cups per color so they would have enough to share without having to wait for a color, or at least that is what I figured. Each kid got a paper towel and a small paint brush to use. This worked fine. The girls were very neat and put the lids back on without even being asked. We just left them on the paper towels on the counter to dry during the party and sent them home flat at the end. The most interesting thing, to me, was that none of them looked anything alike even though they started with the same sun catchers.

The home-made rainbow pinata was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I don't have any useable pictures of the game itself seeing as how it takes 3 hours to make something and it ends in about 5 seconds. The good news is that it was a pull-string, so it was not destroyed in that 5 seconds. My plan is to hang it in Mia's room.

Another game that I created was "Pin the Cupcake on Birthday Bear." I taped Birthday Bear to the same table cloth we had used for our photo back drop. This one lasted a bit longer than the pinata, and everyone was anxious to have their turn. We used Mia's winter scarf for a blindfold and that was very effective.

All in all, this was a great party. Things went smoothly. We had a nice turn-out. Everyone had a great time. Most of the things I planned came together almost exactly the way I imagined them. It didn't cost me very much. And most importantly, there was one very happy little girl. That's enough to validate all the time and energy I spent pulling this off.