Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Early Bird

Warning: potentially upsetting photos below - proceed with caution. Also, discussion of things like birth, breastfeeding, and medical stuff.

I started writing this post last Friday, on Max's birthday. It's an emotional day for parents, and naturally invites looking back to the day they were born. You may have seen me post a happy birthday picture on our Facebook page. Here it is again:
On the left, we have Max at about 2 months; on the right Max shortly before turning 5. What prompted me to write this post was my selection of the picture on the left. Most of the parents I've seen do this use a tiny-baby photo, usually only a few days old. But I didn't. Here's one of the photos I could have chosen:
You see, Max was born 5 weeks early, so spent his first several weeks in the NICU. I had a normal pregnancy, was healthy, didn't do anything weird or dangerous or risky. He just showed up early. I actually went into labor the day before my scheduled baby shower, so we like to joke that he was just trying to crash the party.

My labor was fine too and I managed a natural childbirth, but my little kiddo needed help right away. I got to give him a quick hug before he was whisked off for care, but that was it. Dad followed Max to make sure he was ok (and keep me from freaking out). He had to be intubated that night. He was a big boy for how early he was, but at only 35 weeks his lungs couldn't operate on their own.

He also had IVs, monitors, and a feeding tube. We couldn't hold him right away. I had to use a breast pump to try to get things going. Eventually we got to give him a bottle, and that's how he ate when he came home. We didn't get the hang of breastfeeding until he was about 3 months old. Needless to say we didn't have the smoothest first months possible.
So why am I talking about this? Or why didn't I just use one of these pictures for his birthday pic? Because there's almost this sense of shame when something goes wonky having a baby. Whether it's an early baby, a C-section, problems breastfeeding, whatever it is, I think we as moms have a tendency to want to hide it. As if we'd done something wrong. People even asked me that.

"What happened?"            "I went into labor."
"Why was he early?"         "I don't know; he hasn't told me."
"Is he ok?"                        "Yes."    I hope I hope I hope...

I know we as humans get uncomfortable and just want to talk to show interest, but a lot of this talk made me want to go hide in a corner. I felt horrible; like I'd done something wrong. Like the whole thing was my fault. It was impossible to talk about it with almost anyone. Matt, of course. My very closest friends and family, a little. Mostly I just couldn't talk about it at all. I lived on this knife edge between panic and joy. I had this beautiful baby boy who I loved so much and I just wanted to celebrate and cuddle and be happy. On the other hand, the doctors wouldn't even say he would definitely live, and he looked so tiny all covered with tubes in his incubator. It was the most tortuous time of my life.

So what's the take-home message? For one, just to encourage those going through something like this to reach out. There are probably friends and family that could have eased my burden if I had opened up to them. And if someone in your life is going through something like this, maybe just think hard before you speak.

Max is fine now. But irrational as I know it is, I still feel guilty in some way that I couldn't hold him and take him home that first night. So the other message is this; don't feel bad. There's no perfect birth; no perfect childhood. There's not a bonding checklist that you have to hit all of to have an amazing relationship with your child. The love is the important thing. Can't ever have enough of that.


Monday, February 25, 2013

A Very Fairy Birthday Party - Ideas!

Happy Monday, folks,

This weekend we celebrated my little lady's 5th (!!!) Birthday party. It was a fairly easy one to plan considering that she wanted the same theme as last year - Fairy Party! hah, whew! A relief not just because I spent quite a bit of time and moola crafting decorations last year but - it was so darn cute that I was happy to relive it again with her. :)

Now, not all of Stella's friends are fairy enthusiasts, so to make the magical day more inclusive we called it her "Garden Party" and asked that her buds come dressed as any critter they'd like (magical or otherwise). Seeing the kids dressed up is a highlight of the day, to be certain. So, want to plan your own Garden Party? Well, who needs Pintrest when you have my handy-dandy post here filled with links. ;)

First up, I am a sucker for the classic red toadstool. So, I whipped some together for sitting pillows that were quite easy to make.

red toadstool pillow tutorial mushroom pillow
you can tell they've been well-loved this past year. :)

• red & white felt
• White and red embroidery cotton
• Batting
• Hot Glue Gun

The How Toozies:
1. Cut out two large red circles (mine were about 10 inches across) from your felt
2. Cut out different sized smaller white circles
3. Blanket stitch the 2 red circles together, make sure to leaving a hole for the batting
4. Stuff with batting & finish stitching the pillow.
5. Arrange the white circles (about 3-5) on the top of one side of each red Circle.
4. Stitch the circles on (or just use your hot glue gun)

These make cool "take homes" for the guests or reading corner pillows to jazz up your own child's space.

My daughter wanted everyone to 'enter into fairyland' so we came up with hanging steamers before the entrance and making a cute little chalkboard sign to guide our critters towards the enchanted forest.  To make the sign: I simply bought a chalkboard at our local craft store, hot glued ribbon to the back, painted the front green, and then hot glued these shiny leaf decals & butterflies on top that I also found at the store.
Fairy Party Ideas Tutorial
in case they took a wrong turn at a toadstool...
 Next, we needed a Fairy Tent! Here is a great tutorial by although I used tulle instead of a sheet. Again, the cool thing about these party decorations is that they can double as the presents you are giving your child, to be enjoyed all year. This fairy tent is another sweet addition to a reading nook or play area after the party is over.

 My kid's and their friends are nuts about pinatas. It is truly a site to see when they all freak out and come rushing, arms extended, toward the trinkets & candy exploding from the sky. 

Fairy Party Ideas
Fairy Gal Aria with her WHACKIN' stick!
This year we found the perfect one - a butterfly! And filled it with fun & inexpensive toys and fruit gummies. For last year's pinata 'experience' I had made these cute fey-folk:

Fairy Bendy Dolls Tutorial
warning - they are totally addicting once you start to make them!
 and had sooooo much fun making them. Here's the tutorial at:

And, for the finale, the cake has to be amazing, right?  Last year's was a little garden scene with red toadstool cupcakes, but this year my Fairy Fey requested a castle cake.

Castle Cake tutorial Fairy Party
Cake Boss, eat your heart out
 Here's a quick tutorial that will help you on your way to creating one. Start saving up your toilet paper/paper towel rolls now! :) I prefer to use fondant though, instead of icing on everything. You can generally find fondant at your local craft store or make your own.
Check out this bad-ass girl Knight I found to top the cake with! My daughter has named her: Fiona the Dragon Slayer
For a list of Fairy Party Games, check out and Cady's post from last week and you'll be set!

I hope this helps you on your way to creating a Magical Garden Party of your very own.
Chocolate cake!
Did I also mention that it was my birthday too this weekend?

Chocolate Cake!
Sugar rush!!
Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Elephant Fundraiser Update

Elephant Clip-on Earrings courtesy of Dot from Busted Button
My baby girl is growing up.  A week ago, I gave her the earrings that Dot from Busted Button made for her.  First, how sweet is that of Dot?  She not only donated artwork and a pair of earrings to Aria's fundraiser, but she gifted my little girl these adorable elephant earrings.  And she made them clip-on since Aria doesn't have pierced ears.  Check out that face!?!  That is the face of a little girl that is absolutely full of joy! Thank you Dot! <3

The fundraiser also received this BEAUTIFUL mini quilt from Becky of Belle & Bee!  I think it would make an amazing wall art or adorable dollie quilt. 
The attention to detail is amazing!  Thanks Belle & Bee!
Aria's fundraiser has some AWESOME goodies to auction on March 13.  Be sure to put it on your calendar because you're not going to want this miss out!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let the Games Begin

Whoops! Did you guys know today was Wednesday? 'Cause I totally thought it was Tuesday until just a little while ago. I got all thrown off by Presidents' Day, I guess. Ah well!

I mentioned last week that it's birthday central around here, right? Thought so. Well, last weekend we had Max's 5th birthday party. I'm a super lucky mom in that Max's idea of the perfect party is having his two best buds over to our house for games and cake. This is the birthday party he requested last year and again this year, and both were huge hits. Last year was all about Thomas the Train and Curious George, this year it was Bob the Builder and trains in general.

The party games in particular are a big hit, and it seems lots of people are on the lookout for kids' party games, especially for little ones, so I thought I'd share some of our successes. The first 2 are from last year, when they turned 4; the second 2 are from this year's 5th birthday party.

Fill the Train
For this one, I made each kid a train engine out of a Kleenex box and a soda can, taped together and painted. For the game, there was a big tub of black pom-poms to be the "coal" set on the other side of the room from the trains. Each kiddo got a cup to use as a scoop, then they ran back and forth with scoops of coal. The first kid to fill their train wins! Except, at our parties, everyone gets a prize. Then, the kiddos get to keep the game prizes instead of gift bags. Winning just meant that kiddo picked first.
Those trains ended up sticking around for a lot longer than I expected. And I'm still finding black pom-poms!
Musical Presents
First, get a bunch of little gifts. Things like Silly Putty, bubbles, tiny stuffies, and stickers are great. Wrap each gift in several layers of wrapping paper or tissue paper. It works best if the layers look very different, and don't use too much tape. Get all the kids and any willing adults to stand in a circle. We prefer to have the same amount of presents as game players. Then start the music; everyone passes the gifts in a circle. When the music stops everyone unwraps one layer of whatever they're holding. Then the music starts again and everyone keeps passing. Eventually someone will unwrap a present all the way; that present is theirs to keep! They then leave the circle with their present and the game continues. At the end, everyone will have a present and there will be wrapping everywhere!

Treasure Hunt
This year Max requested a treasure hunt at the last minute. So, I took index cards and drew clues on them, like a picture of the fish tank, or the fridge. The last card had a picture of a treasure chest and meant they could all come claim a prize. This one was a huge hit. Max has requested more treasure hunts at least once a day. If anything I think I could have made it harder and longer, 'cause all three kids rocked it!
Conferring on the clues. 
Spot the Animal
For this one, the prizes were a bag of little plastic animals. Think tub-toys. The 3 kids stood in the middle, and 5 or 6 adults stood in a circle around them. When the music started the adults passed the animals around the circle. When the music stopped the adults hid whatever animals they were holding in their hands. The kids took turns guessing who had which animal. If they got it right, they got the animal. Then the music started again and we repeated until they had all the animals. (I think there were 8 or so). The first round was a little confusing, but then the kids totally got it and were carefully tracking the animal they wanted most.

We capped out this year's party by playing with slime. Or rather, ooblek. Just mix cornstarch and water and add the food coloring of your choice. This one is the easiest to clean up and safest around little ones. And super fun. Don't forget super fun.
Last but not least was this year's cake. Max was changing his mind right up until the last possible minute about what he wanted. He finally settled on yellow cake, chocolate ganache filling, marshmallow icing, with Bob the Builder decorations.
Max's masterpiece! 
I made the bricks and caution cones out of modeling chocolate using a Play-doh mold. Max was very proud to help make it; he mixed the ganache, spread the icing, and placed most of the top decorations, including building a nice structural wall.

I hope some of our fun times help you with yours! More birthdays coming soon!


Monday, February 18, 2013

A Shout Out! To the Mama Bloggers

Happy Monday, folks!

As I sat down hemming and hawing about what to write about today, the clearest thought in my mind was "Damn, blogging is hard work." Mind you, I am complaining about being responsible for one blog post a week - just one! Hah. My lovely partners-in-crime Cady and Robin pick up the slack for us the other 2 days so that we can have a keep building a fun, creative community that remains somewhat consistent.

This idea brought me right to how much I admire so many bloggers and the inspiring, thoughtful posts that give me a jolt of awe and wonder, heartfelt connection, and oftentimes raw humanity when I need it. I am very thankful to be a mommy in this day and age of blogs, meetup groups, and online communities. So I thought today I'd share with you some of my fave online Mamas, and I hope you are introduced to something (or someone) new today:

5 years ago (FIVE!! whew!) when I was new to this whole mommy-business, I was sleep deprived, friendless (we had just moved to a new city), and not quite sure how to embrace my new sloooooooower paced lifestyle. It was then I stumbled upon (and found great solace in) the upbeat, positive way Amanda Blake Soule shared her eye for the beauty of everyday living (and parenting) with the world. She's not only an amazing photographer (seriously, her blog pix speak for themselves) but an artist and craftswoman with so many talents and yummy recipe to share (and she now has 3 books to prove it!) I was hooked then, and I still am. For an inspiring read, check out

Switching gears - if you are in need of a serious giggle-fest mixed with some belly laughs and topped-off with a trip to the bathroom before you pee your pants, I suggest you check out the generally inappropriate (yet always witty) Ms. Jenny Lawson over on her space  And if scouring her blog isn't enough Jenny for you, she also has a memoir that is equally hilarious: Let's Pretend This Never Happened.  Read it! I accept thank-yous in the form of chocolate.

Another blog I like to check in on every once in a while (though, I guess it's not technically a true blog) is the writing of "Amelia"(a pseudonym to protect her family's privacy) in the Huffington Post. Amelia journals about her son, who at the young age of 7 identified as gay. She has a wonderful way with words and recreates some incredibly heartfelt talks between herself, her son, and her community (both online and in the 'real world.')  If only everyone had such supportive parents that could handle the social pressures of conformity with such grace and ease. She is a model of nonjudgement, balance, strength, and love that I find so uplifting. You can enjoy her writing at:

And last up on my top list is Angry Chicken!
Amy Karol is another incredibly talented lady with 2 books under her handmade belt (Bend the Rules Sewing, and Bend the Rules with Fabric). On her blog you'll find amazing craft ideas to do with kids,  homeschooling project ideas, lots o' papercraft fun, tutorials, recipes, and some heartfelt & genuine musings on life. She strikes the perfect balance of interesting and creative - and she's from Portland! So, you know...she gets local points as well. ;)

Okay, friends, that's it for now - I would LOVE for you to add links to your favorite blog & bloggers in the comments below and spread the fun!

Have a great night guys,

Friday, February 15, 2013

When a small stone casts large ripples

I'm exhausted so today's post will be short.  But I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to everyone for supporting Aria's fundraiser.  She has received so many great donations and we are just touched by everyone's kindness, generosity, and enthusiasm. 

The latest act of kindness is from Smashworks, who is donating a fabulous vinyl elephant purse.  Seriously, how cool is this?  I first "met" Ashley from Smashworks on  She and I have participated in a number of craft swaps there and I've been the lucky recipient of some of her fabulous handcrafted items.  So I know firsthand the high quality of her items.  The person who wins the high bid on this item will not be disappointed.
Photo from Smashworks
We also received word this week that NW Kids will be featuring Aria in their cool kids section of their magazine so if you live in the area be sure to pick up the March issue.   Aria is very excited that she will be in print.  My tiny little stone is certainly casting much bigger ripples than she or I thought would be possible.

With that, I will leave you with Aria's fairy.  Why?  Because its kind of cute.  That's why.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Feel the LOVE!

Hey! Tomorrow's Valentine's Day! I know they're plenty of controversy around celebrating, not celebrating, and how to celebrate Valentine's Day. I don't have super strong feelings on any of the sides. In general, I think, hey I'm all for celebrating love.

Valentine's Day does tend to get rather lost and forgotten at our house. This isn't so much a philosophy as a matter of getting lost in the shuffle. Much as Lesley's house is overrun with birthdays, so is mine. My brother, David, gets us started in early February, then my husband, Matt. Valentine's day is next, but then Max closes out the February birthdays. That's just the immediate ones. Plus, Lesley and Stella, of course. The Aria shortly after. Then we have a tiny break before Robin, my mom, and my sister start the birthday train in April. Whew!

It's kind of fun having Stella, Max, and Aria have birthdays so close together. When they turned 3 they even had a triple birthday party! 3 turning 3! That was pretty awesome.
Max slays his Uncle David with a balloon sword. 

Ack! He looks so little! Oy. He's turning 5 (!!) this month!

Anyway, with all this birthday madness Valentine's Day often gets skipped in our house. But as of this year Max is in a class where they exchange Valentines. (Technically he was last year too, but since he was only part time he just skipped it.) He stated early his desire to take Valentines to school this year. I immediately envisioned paper lace hearts, glue, glitter, stickers, and all that good stuff. That's how I remember making Valentines with my mom. Max was having none of it. He wanted the cool looking ones from the store. I tried to compromise with cool looking homemade ones I found on Pinterest. Like this whole board, for example. He was still unimpressed.

I finally relented and let him pick some from the store. I felt a little better when he passed over the stickers and candy and tattoo ones for these cute little etch art ones. (Here they are.) Etch art dinosaurs are hard to compete with. Then he impressed the heck out of me by sitting down and signing every single one. In one sitting! So, this Valentine's Day my little guy joins the ranks of Valentine trading school age kids. (So big!!)

I'm still hoping for paper lace heart and stickers to make a re-appearance. Maybe next year!

What are you doing for Valentine's Day?


Monday, February 11, 2013

A Cake for the person who has everything...

Happy Monday folks!

February is birthday month here in my house, with my daughter, my husband, and my birthdays just days apart (with Valentines day in the middle!) And let me just say, there is no sharing of birthdays or cakes 'round here.

My sweet Stell was sick on her big day, and so we're rescheduled her Fairy Birthday party for another weekend. Poor gal. She did exclaim yesterday that "this is the best birthday!" so I don't think the reschedule got her toooo down.

Kitty Litter Cake tutorial
My lil' trooper!
 Of course, in the looooooooooooooong week we were all sick (and tv had lost it's luster) I did learn how to make balloon animals. So, our balloon animal menagerie kind of made the day more awesome. Those, and presents & cake, of course. :)

Balloon animals
A 'cute' pic of the giraffe I made, or an American Apparel ad? You decide. I think that giraffe is up to something...
 Anywho, on to 2 days later and it's my hub's BDay!  My special guy appreciates (and deserves) a special kind of cake, and this year he's getting a great one! I in no way created the "Kitty Litter" cake, but I sure do appreciate whoever did. :) So without further adieu...

for those of you with a humor level as juvenile as my family's:

2 cake mixes (one white, one choc)
1 package of instant pudding (Vanilla)
1 package of cookies (Vanilla with creme inside, "sandwich" style work best)
1 package of mini Twix (many people use tootsie rolls - but these aren't a hit at my house. You can really use any mini chocolate bar that your fam enjoys eating most)
1 new kitty litter pan
1 new kitty pooper scooper

- Prepare zee cake mixes and then set aside to cool. 

- Prepare zee puddingand also set aside to firm up/cool. 

- Crumble zee cookies in small batches in a food processor, or just crumble them with your hands if that's your style (it's ours). Set Aside.

- Crumble the cooled-down cakes into a large bowl. Toss with 1/2 of zee cookie crumbles, and the pudding. (note: you want the cake to be moist, not a soggy mess, so you don't have to add all the pudding.) 
Kitty Litter Cake Tutorial with pictures
  - Put cake mixture into the cleaned kitty litter box (even though it's new, ya never know...) 

Kitty Litter Cake Tutorial
I DID clean the floor before we started, mmkay? ;)
- Spread the remaining cookie crumbles on top

 - Now it's time to add the poop! (If you haven't involved the kids to help at this point, what is wrong with you!? hah) Open up your mini chocolates and decorate to your delight.

Kitty Litter Cake Tutorial
are you as excited as I am?!!
 - and for the pièce de résistance: Add the pooper scooper!
Kitty Litter Cake Tutorial
et voila! Delicious and classy!

Have a fun week, everyone!


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Depths of a Child's Heart

I know I gush a lot about the people who are coming forward to help Aria achieve her dream of helping the elephants but seriously it means the world to my daughter as well as to me and Aria's daddy.  For those of you located in the Pacific NW, Art ala Carte is hosting an art open house on March 16, from 5pm-8pm.  The cost is $9.00 per person (adult/child) and half of the proceeds will go to Aria's fundraiser!!  If that weren't enough, Aria from Art ala Carte is auctioning off a family year membership to her lovely art studio.  And I'm not done.  Le Cookie Monkey is donating three dozen elephant cookies for the art open house!  Seriously, I am just left speechless by the kindness of these amazing ladies.

Again for those of you located in the Pacific NW, please do stop by; Aria would love to meet her fellow elephant savers. I also encourage you to stop by and visit both Art ala Carte and Le Cookie Monkey.  Support these amazing businesses and the even more amazing people behind them!   :)
Lesley designed the flier.  Seriously, how cute is her artwork?!!
Alright, I know this will be shocking but I'm going to talk about something that has absolutely nothing to do with Aria's fundraiser.  Just a few days ago, I received a package in the mail that tugged at my heart strings.  I knew it was coming but had forgotten about it in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  You see, maybe a month back, I decided to sponsor a child in Zambia through Children International
Portland, Oregon, USA and Zambia are a long way from each other, separated by land and the Atlantic Ocean.
When I opened the thick envelope and found a picture of a 4 year old little girl staring at me and read her family information, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of her life situation.  She lives with her mother and father and two older siblings in a one room house with concrete floors and a corrugated metal roof. They do not have electricity or running water in their home and the entire family lives off of $40 a month.  I was also struck by the similarities between little Choolwe and my own daughter Aria.  I purposely asked for a girl roughly age 4 because I want our sponsorship experience to be meaningful to Aria.  I want Aria to get to know this child living on the other side of the world.  I handed Aria the photo and read from the same paper that Choolwe loves painting, singing, dancing, and playing with her dolls and friends.  Aria noticed right away that they had a lot in common and she clutched the picture while exclaiming, "Oh Momma, I wanted a new friend! How did you know?!"  I choked back tears.

Aria had a lot of questions and I'm not sure she understood the answers completely, but sponsoring Choolwe is already changing the way she and our entire family look at the world.  Sponsorship programs are clever non-profit marketing tools. People tend to respond better; to give more when a human face is attached to it.  The money we send to the program is actually pooled and then directed through an non-governmental organization in Zambia that determines the best use of that money to benefit a much wider pool of individuals than little Choolwe.  If the money we sent was spent exclusively on Choolwe, it would be a massively inefficient use of the money.  And the reality is that Choolwe's live can only improve when her entire community improves.  However, there is room to send direct packages to the children and some sponsors raise money for specific needs like a new roof for the family home, books for the local school, tutoring, and so on.  One of the reasons I signed up to sponsor a child was because I felt it was a way to truly connect Aria to the issue of global wealth disparities in a way that makes sense to her and is meaningful.  Every year we will receive 2 letters, a new picture, and an update on Choolwe's life.  In return we will send her 2 letters as well and yearly pictures of Aria and our family. Aria already knows that she would like to send a photo of herself, draw a little picture, and include some stickers. 

On Tuesday after school, Aria and I headed to Finnegan's, our local toystore.  Lesley's daughter Stella is having a fairy garden birthday party this weekend and Aria wanted some little fairy wings.  We thought it would be a good time to pick out some neat stickers to send to Choolwe. I thought Aria would insist on picking out her wings first but she surprised me by strolling into the store determined to find her new little friend the perfect stickers.  She was being especially reflective that afternoon. She would hold up a toy and ask me if it was something that Choolwe could get in Zambia and I would explain that it was unlikely.  Silently she would put the item back down and continue on her hunt for the perfect stickers.  She finally settled on some fancy scratch art stickers from Melissa & Doug.  She picked out two different packages, one with fantasy creatures and another set with bugs.  At first, I thought she wanted to get one for herself but I underestimated the depths of my own child's heart.  She simply wanted to send two packages to Choolwe.   
Aria picked these out especially for Choolwe.
Aria then looked at me and quietly said, "Momma, I want to send Choolwe this and this," pointing at a number of small toys on a nearby shelf.  All letters to and from go through Children International for translation purposes; they send the original as well as a translated copy onward.  They allow the inclusion of stickers, bookmarks, and photos but to keep costs down they do not send along packages.  I had to explain to Aria that we couldn't send her toys this round, but that we could talk about sending Choolwe a birthday package if she wanted.  (Sponsors can send packages but they have to secure the field agency's mailing address and incur the shipping cost themselves).  Aria has been strong willed since birth and she gave me her determined look before saying, "Yes, I want to come back and pick out her birthday presents....soon, Momma."  How could I refuse such a request? 
Aria and Choolwe are two girls.  They both love art, dancing, and singing.  They both enjoy playing with dolls and their friends.  They both have dreams and hopes and fears.  These two little girls live on different continents and are separated by the Atlantic ocean and life experiences, but they will trade pictures and letters on biannual basis and watch each other grow up.  If my daughter's concern and love for a little girl she has never met is any indication, I think it is likely that an ocean will not stop a friendship from forming.  The depths of a child's heart are limitless.  If we give them space and room, they can show us the way to true compassion.

<3 Robin


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Bit of Comedy

Max is going through one of those phases that kids go through. I'm calling this one the "inept stand-up comedian" phase. Mostly, this means he's gotten really into making jokes, but isn't so clear on what folks find funny. What makes it extra confusing to the casual observer is that he has excellent comedic timing and he really commits to his jokes and cracks himself up. As a result, it goes something like this:

Max: "What does a tree say in the morning?"
Indulgent adult: "Hmm, I don't know. What?"
Max: "Paint! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!!!"
Somewhat confused indulgent adult: *slight awkward laughter*
Max: "Ha-ha-ha-ha!! Get it?!?!?"
Amused-at-the-kid-not-the-joke adult: "Hah ... hah. Sure..."
*Max continues to crack up*

As you can see, the jokes aren't exactly gold, but he sure does get a kick out of it anyway. At this point, he knows 2 actual jokes as far as I know. The rest of the time we get wonderfully timed and delivered non-sequiturs, followed by hilarious cackling.

Here are his 2 actual jokes:

What does a train say when it's eating?

What do cows like to dance to?

Not comedic gold, perhaps, but they at least have punch lines.

We've also been cracking up around here over Written By a Kid. If you haven't discovered Geek & Sundry yet, you should definitely check it out.

If you you want to skip straight to our favorites, I love the first episode the best:

Joss Whedon Fights a One-Eyed Monster in "Scary Smash"

Max's favorite so far is:

What's making you laugh today?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Hearty Tutorial - Happy Heart Buttons!

Happy Monday, folks!

Since V-day is coming up fast, I thought I'd share an inexpensive and fun tutorial to do with the kiddos.

I was trying to come up with a simple crafty gift for my daughter to give to her classmates this Valentines (all 25 of them!) and after a stroll around the craft store, here's what I came up with:

Happy Heart Buttons!

Around our house we need activities and crafts that my almost-5 year old and my 1 1/2 year old can both be engaged in and this one was pretty darn fun and open-ended (and as a bonus - very inexpensive.)

Supply List:
- a bag of wooden hearts (about $2)
- a bag of button 'pins' (also about $2)
- glue
- paints (we prefer washable around these parts, *ahem*)
- cup for paint water and palette
- any ol' extra fun decorative stuff, we used: googly eyes, glitter, and sparkly puff balls
- paper & your child's favorite drawing/painting materials

This is kind of a 2 to 3-parter, as some drying is involved.

First, the set-up:
Start simply by just introducing the paints and hearts. I find it's easier for the kids to focus if I hold off on the fun 'extras' until I have a base color on the hearts.

Valentine tutorial
Notice the tablecloth? Hah, this mama's been around the messy block more than once!
Here's a tip: if you don't have a paint palette, simply wrap a plate with plastic wrap, and viola! Easy peasy and super fast clean-up)

Happy Hearts button tutorial
our palette and some colorful hearts
 When you're done painting your hearts, set them aside to dry. When they're dry, it'll be time to get your glitter on! (and your googly eyes, and pom poms, etc...)
Valentines day tutorial
The bambini and their friend with happy hearts
Next, wipe all the glitter you can out of your toddler's mouth. The rest you will find later in the sparkliest, most beautiful diaper you've ever had the honor to change.

No? That's just me? Okay, let's move on...

You should be pretty much done now, and have hearts that look a little somethin' like this:

Happy Heart Buttons Valentines day tutorial
I was leaning toward the eyeball heart, but I think the bunny tail is my fave
Next you simply glue the pins on the back. I'm always tempted to do steps like this by myself to speed the process along, but this is a fun step to include the kids in. Here's a pic so you're clear on which kind you're looking for at the craft store:
detail of the button pin
And finally, to pull it all together and have a nice presentation, I'm going to have my daughter draw a fun Valentines drawing and sign her name. (I don't know about you, but there is NO WAY I am getting my 4 year old to sign her name 25 times in a row. So, having her sign the picture makes any project a bit more pleasant.)

Then, I'll simply scanned it and print it out (4 to a sheet) on some heavier stock paper. And, voila! pin a button to each card and you're good to go!

Have a happy February, everyone. I'd love to see some of your Happy Heart Buttons!

Happy Heart Button Tutorial
Have fun!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dreaming of elephants

I had to order some books for my upcoming field exams (I'm a full time doctoral student) and I just couldn't help myself.  I found myself browsing the kids book section looking for more elephant books for Aria. I stumbled upon Elephants: A book for children by Steven Bloom and just had to buy it for her. I'll never know what drew my little girl to elephants when she was just a wee two year old but I have to say the more I learn about them the more I fall in love with them myself. 

The photography is simply gorgeous and the information is presented in such a kid friendly way.  Did you know that elephants are excellent swimmers?  Or that that their trunks are longer than the tallest person you know and weigh more than two normal-sized men?  Perhaps the sweetest little elephant fact from the book is that when an elephant dies, his/her family members will stay by the body often for days as if they are willing the elephant to live again.  And if they pass the same spot, they will stand still and silent for several minutes to pay homage to their lost loved one.  When I read that to Aria I seriously choked up.

I admit I am extremely sentimental and it doesn't take much to get my tears flowing but the timing was impeccable as just days before Elephant Family posted about the murder of 14 elephants in Sabah, Borneo. One tiny 3 month old calf was found near its mother trying to wake her.  Heartbreaking.  These majestic animals need all the help they can get from us.

*Photo from the Elephant Family page* Seriously, how sad is this?  Poor little elephant.

I do not imagine anyone can see this picture and not be moved.  I debated posting this picture because of how heartbreaking it is but ultimately decided to because I believe we truly need to understand the brevity of the situation.  Elephants are endangered because of humans and its up to humans to do something about it. 

Yeah...I can't even look at that picture without crying.  In more uplifting news, I am excited to announce that I will be attempting to make the most awesome wool felt LED elephants.  What in the world is that you ask?  A long time ago, I pinned an amazing felt momma and baby elephant kit designed by Syuzi Pakhchyan of Fashioning Technology.

Salt 'n' Peanut.  *Photo by Syuzi Pakhchyan.*

Seriously, how cute is this pair?  Syuzi writes, "Salt n’ Peanut were inspired by the exuberant display of love in elephant society between a mother and it’s calf. In elephant social customs, the mother and its calf always remain in constant touch.When the trunk of Salt (the mother elephant) and the trunk of Peanut (the baby elephant) connect, the LED in Peanut’s chest illuminates, signifying love and joy."  I stumbled upon the sweet little kit again while searching for elephant crafts for Aria.  I knew immediately that I wanted to make some for Aria's Elephant Saver Fundraiser but when I went to purchase the kits I discovered they were discontinued.

I messaged Syuzi and inquired whether there was any way that I could find a kit somewhere or attempt to make them on my own for the auction.  You know what I love about the creative community?  The absolute generosity that I have found within it.  This fundraiser is teaching not only my child but me as well about the depth of human hearts.  Reaching out to others is sometimes scary but so far its been an amazing experience.  Syuzi not only gave me permission to make my own little LED elephants but she also gave me some construction tips.  <3

I'll leave you with this awesome little elephant craft that Aria and I did together.  I go the idea from Red Ted's Art Blog.  It was super easy and Aria enjoyed turning her little hand prints into a small family of elephants.  Okay, I admit it...I rather enjoyed turning my hand prints into elephants as well. 

My favorite has to be the one on the left.  She looks like she is laughing.  :)  All prints are Aria's except for the elephant on the right in the top right photo.  That would be my hand print.  We collaborated to create a mommy and baby elephant picture.