Monday, December 22, 2008

12 Things I've Learned Since Moving to Iowa - Winter Edition

1. Kids in the backseat think it's hilarious when you can't drive up your own driveway after an ice storm. "More sliding Mommy!"

2. Cutting down your own Christmas Tree with a handsaw at Shrute Farms is much more festive than cutting open tree nets at Target to see which tree has the least amount of needles falling off. Okay, really it's called Strautman Farms, but whatever.  Also, after you have cut down your own tree at said farm, you get to go into the Family Farm Store where a sweet grandma-type is waiting with the sole purpose of passing out hot apple cider and sugar cookies and a kind gentleman is waiting with the sole purpose of passing out Christmas Tree coloring pages for the kids. Christmas Tree shopping does not get any better than that.

3. Winter brings crows (it now makes sense why a group of those freaky birds is called a murder) and bunnies (super cute but they poop all over the beautiful white snow and it ruins my view of my backyard). Winter takes away bugs. Which is excellent. Because have you ever seen a Wolf Spider? I won't include a picture because this isn't a horror story. But if you really want to imagine mini tarantula-looking spiders living in your basement, go for it. (I only found two this year, but still! GEEZ!)

4. Wind chill is a bitch. (1st blog curse word!)

5. Peyton's preschool teacher sent out a reminder for parents to make sure that the kids bring snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens to school. Why? Because the preschoolers will play outside "unless either the temperature or wind chill is below zero." Zero. Degrees. ZEROOOOOO!!!!! DEGREEEEEES!!!!!

6. Grocery Stores have drive up service.  Seriously. You pay for your groceries and leave them in the store. Then you drive your comfy heated car up and the sweet courtesy clerk brings out your groceries and freezes while he loads them into your comfy heated car.  I've never actually used the drive up service because I know I would feel too guilty. But it's amazing just the same.

7. When my husband and I lived in California we had an inside joke. It basically went like this: One of us would say, "I'm freezing, how cold is it?" and the other would say, "Two." Like 2 degrees was the freaking coldest it could ever, ever be. Turns out, it's not.

8. Getting two little kids ready to go out in the snow can easily take 45 minutes if you don't have a specific dressing plan. Also, the scene in "A Christmas Story" when the little brother can't put his arms down while wearing his winter coat is quite accurate. Also, watching my sweet little girl trying to hold her shovel while wearing mittens makes me frustrated for her because it's so hard to do. And she doesn't give up. She's just so patient.
Also, Peyton can get really sweaty while snow boogie boarding down the small hill in our backyard.

9. My (and my Mom's - Hi Mom!) Jabba the Hut snowman skills could use some improvement. So what? We're still proud!

10. There is really no limit to the crafting that can be accomplished when you are snowed in during an extremely long winter. There's no limit to the time you can spend in your pajamas, either. Or watching TV. Or drinking hot coffee fancied up with Bailey's or Kahlua or both. 

11. If you have a small crack in your windshield that leads to the left, it can actually start back at it's source and go all the way to the right. 2 windshield cracks from 1 small pebble. Now that's killing 2 windshield sides with 1 stone. Get it? HA!

12. Snow is beautiful. And it comes in all different sizes. And sometimes it swirls and flutters. And sometimes it's so big it looks like that fake tissue paper snow stuff on TV. And it's so, so quiet. And beautiful. Really, really beautiful.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Made with Love - Posters

So I like to make homemade posters. It's like a little tradition. In the past I have made them for baby showers and delivery rooms and graduations and birthdays. 

Now that my kids are old enough to help, we are a poster-making machine. We make them for Father's Day and birthdays and family visitors from out-of-state. Peyton tells me what to write and then he decorates the paper with polka dots and squiggly lines and lots of color. Ella draws her sweet little circles and happy faces. When we are done, the kids have a blast taping them up all around the house. Here is a collection we made for my sister-in-law, Ali, and my cute little nephew, Noah, when they came to visit:  

And here's some we made for my mom when she came to visit:

The signs are nothing fancy, just your basic paper and markers and a piece of tape, but they are made with love. 

The last few years, I have made Happy Birthday posters for my kids. I hang them around the house at night so they get a special birthday surprise when they wake up. The signs stay up for a few weeks, then we gather up the non-mutilated ones and rehang them in a cluster in the basement for another few months. Here's a sampling from last year's birthdays:

So a couple nights ago, Peyton's Birthday Eve, he gets out of his bed to come and ask me if I'm going to make him some signs, "You know, like you did when I was one years old?" 

The next morning we go around the house and I read each one to him. He memorizes the signs as soon as I read them. They say things like:

Happy Birthday, Peyton!

Yay! You're Five!

We love you so much!

You are our Best Boy!

Peyton is a Super Star!

His favorite, as always, is the one that says: 

Go Peyton!
It's your Birthday!
Go Peyton!
Shake your Boom-Boom!
Go Peyton!
Go Peyton! 
Go Peyton!

because whenever we sing it we have to do a silly little dance. I don't know about your house - but we are really good at the Shake your Boom-Boom dance around here. Seriously, our Boom-Boom dancing is competition-worthy.

Anyway, Peyton loves the posters so much and he rearranges them daily. I know it's just a matter of time before he'll only care about the posters if they say things like "Your brand new car is parked right outside!" or "$100 is hiding somewhere in the house for you!" But for now, I know he appreciates and looks forward to his special birthday posters. Even if he did count them this year and say, "You only made me 12, that's not really a lot." 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ella's First Joke

Ella: "Why did the hippo cross the road?"
Me: "Why?"

Ella: "To get POOP!"

Yep, I totally didn't see that one coming 150 miles away. Look at sweetie pie eating her first little candy cane and imagine listening to THAT joke 20 times a day. I mean, I KNOW I need to put a stop to all the poop talk, but she's just so dang adorable.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ode to Sequins

So Ella's method of decorating with sequins is to carefully place a few drops of glue on her artwork and then dump the small tupperware of sequins on the whole page. It's like survival of the sequin fittest. The lucky ones get stuck in the glue, the rest are casualties that get pushed onto the table and forgotten. 

Tonight, there was a disaster in which 5 freaking gazillion various-sized sequins were spilled onto the carpet. Not surprisingly, Peyton and Ella were putting minimal energy into the clean-up effort. Not wanting to waste the next half hour of my life picking craft bling out of the carpet, I told them that they had until the count of 10 to save as many sequins as possible before the vacuum got them. Besides, I hadn't vacuumed in an entire day so there was already a variety of cereal bits on the floor. I started counting as I got out the vacuum. "Hurry, Hurry, Save Them!" I honestly thought this would be a fun solution. My kids usually respond well to this sort of tactic.

I was very, very, wrong. As I got close to the end of the count, Peyton started sobbing, "I want to pick up all the sequins! I don't want to throw any away!"

And because I'm THAT parent, "Honey, when you run out of sequins, I'll buy you some more."

Still sobbing, "No, I never want to throw them away. I never want them to go in the garbage truck. They are my favorite thing in the whole house!" He collapses into my lap, "I just need love, Mommy. All I need is love." 

I give him a big cuddly hug and because I'm teaching my child about the virtues of equality, I say, "Look, we picked up the big ones, those are the best ones anyway."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

He's still crying, but it's bath time, and we need to move on.  "I'll pick up a few more before I vacuum." 

Part of me is thinking: Sequins? Seriously? Suck it up, kid. I really need to be more strict. 

But a bigger part of me feels sorry for him. I've had irrational sadness before. I can relate to how he's feeling. Sometimes it's hard to be a kid.

Five minutes later, during bath time:
"Mommy, I love sequins. They are round and I love round things. They are like sugar plums. " I totally swear, I'm not making this up. 

Five minutes later, I still haven't vacuumed and he's still in the bath. 
He starts crying, "Right now, I'm thinking about you vacuuming. Even when I was playing, I was still thinking about it. I'm still a little sad."

And because I didn't want to pay for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy for my son in 15 years, when he got out of the bath I helped him pick up the rest of the 5 freaking gazillion various-sized sequins. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crafts Rock!

I'm a huge fan of crafts. Doing a craft with your child is a bonding experience. It's quality time in a low-pressure environment and it boosts a child's self-confidence. It helps build a positive self-image, encourages imagination and self-discipline, rewards hard work and diligence. Crafting promotes spatial development, sense of color, and hand-eye coordination. Seriously, if you take the time to make a craft with your child, you can give yourself a big "I'm a Rockstar" pat on the back.

What kind of toy can do all that? My kids will be receiving a bunch of commercial toys from Santa, I won't even try to deny it. Commercial toys are super fun and they can be very educational. But there is definitely something to be said for the immense benefits of crafting.

My kids have their own craft cabinet. I'm totally proud of it. I keep it supplied with lots of inexpensive craft supplies. It contains different colored blank paper, scrap paper and other leftovers from my scrap booking endeavors, stickers, stamps, glue sticks, liquid glue, sequins, and crayons. I keep the markers and kid-scissors in a separate location because I'm not a complete idiot. Maybe your kids can handle free range markers and scissors, but I'm not taking any chances.

My kids also have coloring books, but they rarely bring them out. That's not to say that I'm one of those "Kids shouldn't have coloring books because it limits their creativity" kind of people. I remember loving coloring books when I was little. There is something very soothing about coloring inside the lines. Peyton, who is now in preschool, does an excellent job coloring inside the lines and it makes me super proud. Judge me if you want, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

Having their own craft cabinet allows kids the freedom of whipping up a craft whenever they feel like it. Here's a story for you. We went to see Santa the other night. Right before we left, Ella decided she wanted to draw him a happy face. So sweetie girl goes over to the craft cabinet and gets out the necessary supplies. Does it get any cuter? Nope. Here's Ella telling 19-year-old Santa that she wants a butterfly for Christmas. This is important because she spent the majority of the day telling us that she was scared of Santa and didn't want to see him. I totally believed it because last year she wouldn't even look at Santa. But once she had the picture to give him, she wasn't scared and actually engaged him in a conversation about how butterflies flap their wings.
So yeah, I am going to go ahead and call it: The Craft Cabinet That Saved Christmas.

Also, I just love listening to the peace and quiet of my children working on crafts all by themselves. And if one of them just happens to present me with one of her works of art because she just loves me so much, well, that's an added bonus.

You know when your kid has had one of those crazy bad days and you seriously can't wait to put him to bed? And then you go in after he falls asleep and he is just a perfect little angel? To me, crafting is like that. If you are focused on doing the craft with your child (not multi-tasking), everything else can melt away. So yeah, I have an ulterior motive: when my kids craft, it helps me keep my sanity.

Anyway... On To the Crafting!

Super Cool Gift Idea:
Put together some craft supplies in a cool box and give it to your child for Christmas. Even better, put everything together for a specific craft. I sell craft kits for kids in my Etsy store, feel free to steal my ideas there. If you want to save yourself some time, buy a craft kit, there are a zillion different kinds out there. Mine are the best, of course, but do what you need to do. If you have the time and the energy (show-off!), you can make one yourself. Here's an example of a craft kit you can put together:


You'll need some SUPPLIES:
Chenille Stems
Craft Glue
Small Black Pompoms
Black Embroidery Floss
Wiggly Eyes

Here's how you can

Cut out the mouse body and ears from the template paper. Cutting out the templates is great scissor practice for young crafters. Use the paper templates to cut out a body and ears
from felt. Cut the two slits on the body by folding the nose toward the middle of the body until the slit marks are folded in half. Then you can easily make little snips with your scissors along the marks.
Slip the ear piece through the two slits on the body.

Eyes: Use the craft glue to attach the wiggly eyes.
Nose: You can use a sequin or a pompom for a nose or you can leave your mouse plain. If you would like to add whiskers, cut a small length of the black satin floss. It will fray as soon as you cut it - perfect for whiskers! Spread a little craft glue on the end of the mouse nose. Lay down the whiskers on the glue and press a pompom nose on top.
Bling!: Use craft glue to attach sequins to your mouse if you would like some extra sparkle. If you a working with a younger crafter, place some glue spots on the mouse. Then you can let your child place the sequins.
Tail: Spread a generous amount of craft glue on half of the chenille stem tail.
Attach the tail to the underside of your mouse. Curl your mouse's tail a little so that you can hang your mouse.

Happy Crafting!


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