Thursday, June 26, 2014

A simple craft for little hands.

The other day, mini came inside with a bunch of dandelions and asked me to make her a "hat".  Well, I totally took her hat, and raised her one full blown princess crown.  And by her reaction, I totally KILLED that request - you'd think I'd magically called some gold and jewels out of thin air or something - and I was pleasantly surprised at how a 5 minute "project" for me could result in something so fun, endlessly entertaining and cherished (we still can't throw it away) for her.

Once bug saw mini's awesome crown, he had to have one, too.  Hence our "nature crowns" were born.

I realized the potential to make this something super meaningful, though at the time it was just a simple, thrown together, very quick craft for us to do together.  I let both mini and bug "design" their crowns, collect the "ingredients" themselves, and help me pull it together.

 They couldn't stop collecting things, even after their nature crowns were complete!

The tutorial here is specifically for the Dandelion Princess Crown, but it's obviously very easily altered.

You need scissors, dandelions (buckets and buckets of dandelions), skinny elastic, ribbon and matching washi tape.
Also, and most importantly so I'm not sure how it managed to elude the list up there, you need a large piece of poster board.

Now, I can't, unfortunately, give you specific dimensions or anything, mostly since I didn't measure, but also because every kids head is going to be a little different.  So take these general instructions and run with them.
1. Start with your poster board laid out flat and begin your cut near one of the bottom corners.
2. Continue cutting up so that you have a half circle that's a little over 3/4 of the width of the poster board.
3. With the flat side facing you, a) bring the corners of the half circle towards the middle and b) then overlap the one corner and continue pulling it until the point of the crown is well-established and the bottom of the hat is fairly flat around.
4. Let go of the outer corner a bit, put on a lot of hot glue and
5. Curl it back up onto the cone and press down hard.
6. Pull the inner corner down away from the inside of the cone and
7. put on a bunch of hot glue, then
8. Push it back up against the cone and hold it for a few seconds.
9. Now your cone, or crown, is glued together.
10. It may be totally uneven or lopsided.  Just trim around the bottom to make it level.
11. Cut some elastic to fit snuggly but not too tight under your kids chin.
12. Dab some hot glue (which is really hard to see) on the inside of the crown at the side and
13. Press one end of your elastic onto it.
14. Then dab some more hot glue directly across from the first and press the other end of the elastic onto it.  Make sure your elastic isn't twisted before you glue.

Now, we decorate!
1. Wrap washi tape from top to bottom at an angle.
2. Continue wrapping pieces of washi tape bottom to top at angles and overlapping until you like the pattern.
3. Take the stem off of the dandelions.
4. Put hot glue on the back of the dandelion head.
5. Press the dandelions heads all around the bottom of the crown!

Now, I don't have pictures of this, but take your ribbon and cut it in three pieces.  Use your hot glue to glue one end of each piece into the inside of the point of the crown.  Hot glue another large dandelion over the point.

And now, you are The Dandelion Princess!  (make THAT into a movie, Disney...)

 I couldn't stop taking pictures of her smelling dandelions.  She was so funny!

When bug wanted in on the action, I charged him with the task of collecting items he might want on a prince crown.  He chose several long pieces of grass, some dandelion STEMS, some rocks, and a few leaves.  And I looked at the assortment and went, uh... (the dandelion one was pretty straight forward...)

 Ignoring the fact that he plucked leaves off of my hostas... It was kind of fun working with bug to come up with the perfect "plan" for his crown.  I made a cone like mini's and glued on the elastic.  Then I wrapped some green and white washi tape around it.
I started by gluing the 3 rocks in the front, like jewels.  Then I figured the leaves could nicely wrap around the bottom of the crown - and I like how the kind of curl together.  I glued some long grass and some dandelion stems into the inside of the point and then wrapped two dandelions stems around the point.  Voila!  A boy version!

He called it his "Crazy hat" - which I think is a compliment.

 And now, you are the Prince of Pebbles and Leaves!  Or something...

 What I think is great about this project, is how customizable it is.

1. Go for a "nature scavenger hunt" with specific items in mind.  Then use those items to create your Nature Crown!
2. Go on a walk around the park or neighborhood and see what items jump out at you.  There might be some really interesting things you never would have thought of that you find along the way!
3. Collect items when you are on a special trip - when you take a break to stretch your legs on a road trip, when you're picnicking somewhere special, when you take a day trip to a special place, when you go camping or bike riding or to the beach!  Use your natural "souvenirs" to make your crown!

Don't forget to stop and pick some dandelions along the way.

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I may be getting TOO confident...

Am I getting overconfident?  The herb garden jars were so nice, and I loved the green and turquoise together so much, and it matched where we're going with decor for the main floor so well, that I couldn't help it.  I got sucked in.  Sucked right in... to succulent mania.
As I've mentioned, I have a black thumb.  As is evidenced by the very brown, very dead, large shrubbery outside my front door - I don't even know HOW that happened.  I was pretty sure that kind of EVERGREEN bush thing was called such because it was EVER GREEN.  I didn't think it COULD die.  But I digress...

I just heard so many great things about succulents... about how easy they are to care for.  How easy they are to plant.  How easy they are to manage.  How easy they are to KEEP ALIVE.  It sounded like my kind of plant.

Because, you know, generally speaking things that can't scream at me to feed them don't fare well around here.

So because these guys are professed to add greenery by being very difficult to kill, I decided to try my hand at them.  But I needed something clever and whimsical to sport these cute little plants.

It just so happened that I had some wooden birdhouses in my craft stash where they sat for about 3 years waiting for the kids and I to paint them and hang them in some darling little decor vignette.  Perfect. 

Want to make some succulent birdhouses??  Here's how!

It's a piece of cake.

1. First, tape off all the areas you want to remain raw wood.  (I am loving the touches of raw wood combined with paint in decor lately, though I don't think I could do it in large furniture pieces.)
2. Break out the spray paint and spray, spray, spray.
3. Do multiple thin coats.  Since it's raw wood it'll soak up the paint, so working with a primer/paint in one is a good idea.

4. Hook your saw bit into your drill. 
I used three different methods, since the birdhouses were all different shapes:
5. For the steep peaked roof, I sawed a large hole into both sides of the roof at the top,
6. so the holes met at the peak and created one large hole that dipped down on the sides.
7. The tiny house was so little, sawing into the roof was too much for it.  I ended up taking the whole roof off with the drill, a pliers and a screw driver.  Even though it wasn't my original plan, it was the best choice, since a hole in a house that small wouldn't have allowed any room for a plant.
8. For the pagoda style house I drilled three holes in the roof, then one hole in the inner "ceiling" - it wasn't QUITE as large as I wanted, so I enlarged it with the help of pliers and sand paper, as you'll see in the following photos.

** Once the holes are all drilled, take some medium grit sand paper and sand all drilled/cut/pried edges to make them nice and smooth.  I think this gives a more organic look instead of "manmade."

9. Cut some parchment paper to approximate size of the birdhouse.
10. Round the edges of the parchment paper to make it easier to work with.
11. Stuff the parchment paper inside the birdhouse, with the edges meeting the top of the hole.  It will overlap and layer, that's ok.  Just make sure you're covering the wood inside the house.
12. Staple around the top edge of the parchment paper.  (My pergola shaped one was such a weird shape I had to staple from the outside in.  I'm ok with that.  It's not super obvious.)

** The parchment paper serves two purposes.  First, it covers the little bird hole in the front so that soil doesn't go spilling out all over.  Second, it keeps the water from soaking into the birdhouse, thus rotting the wood in no time flat.  In a few of the DIY succulent planter tutorials I read, this was the method used, so I'm trusting to the experts.
Succulents don't take much water so usually I just wet the soil with a spray bottle.  Works great.

13. Now put in your potting soil.  Fill 'er up.
14. Place your succulents.  You may need to fill in with a bit more soil, or but some rocks around.

 And that's it!  You're done!

 Ah, what whimsical little planters you have there!

That little one in on the side is planted in a tuna fish can I had painted for something else.  I think the succulent I used may be a bit to big for it, and I'm not sure it'll survive since Zoe picked it out of it's little pot and brushed all of the "gross hairs" off of it, then cleaned it thoroughly and proceeded to give it rides in the tricycle and sing to it before I noticed that anything was amiss.  Soooo, it's basically hanging by a thread.

I do hope I don't kill them immediately.  They now live on my piano.  Which, since none of us actually play right now, currently serves as a birdhouse succulent planter holder.

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*

Monday, June 23, 2014


yummy monday title button photo c41588db-8f15-4de5-90e0-d0ada37b9cd6_zpsf029cce8.jpg

This recipe is 100% Mom-approved.  And by mom, I mean MY mom, not just any mom.  So that's saying something.

This really came about as I looked at the random assortment of fruits/veggies/other meal items I had just purchased without a plan and saying "what can I make with this?" It was a grab-bag style dinner.
Fortunately, it worked out.  Doesn't always happen that way, but it worked out.  I realized that I had the makings of a pretty awesome fruity salsa, which led to the decision to thaw out some fish - they go hand in hand, am I right?  I glanced over a few different fish recipes and then decided to wing it.  This is what I came up with:

 photo fishrecipecard_zpsb0c4ee21.jpg

It's not complicated and takes very little time, though the recipe seems long.  The coconut taste is prominent, but not overbearing - which I thought worked out well since Tilapia really has very little flavor on its own.  The fresh fruit in the salsa was so ripe and PERFECT for this recipe... it couldn't have come together any better had I actually planned it.

Which just goes to show you that the best results are sometimes simply happy accidents - even in the kitchen!  
My personal recipes certainly don't always turn out this well, but I'm fairly proud of this one.  Go on and try it and tell me what you think!

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Procrastination at it's finest.

After I made Zoe her heart-toe shoes for Valentine's Day, I figured the boy could use some shoes, too.  I had these plain tan slip-ons I got on clearance at Walmart and decided to make them fancy pants - in a "boy way" (Ezra insisted).
I decided on a fun, geometric print, almost tribal in a way.

Unfortunately, it took me so long to complete them (in true professional procrastinator fashion) that his feet grew out of them.


So these will end up being Zoe's as well, though they're just a tad too big currently.

Would you like to turn your plain shoes into a work of art?

 photo tenniescollage_zpsfc410a59.jpg

All you need is a Sharpie fabric pen!  And a little creativity.  Possibly a ruler if you want your lines to be straighter than mine.

I basically just made them up as I went, starting at the toe.

Perfect for walking.

If you like these, check out my other shoes!

Heart-Toe Shoes
Glittered Zebra Printed Shoes
Sloppy Joe's Shoes 
Snappy Shoes

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tales From The Crib: Vows to my kids.

tales from the crib title button photo 926b28a9-37d5-4db6-a4e4-881a6822af73_zps02ccd029.jpg

This week marked bug's very last moments in kindergarten.  I say this nearly every fall when school starts again, but I found myself wondering when he grew up and how I could have missed it?

He went from the easiest of easy newborns to

a serious but adorable and still very easy baby to 

a spirited yet serious toddler then 

a very sassy and outspoken preschooler

and an even more temperamental kindergartner.  (that's funny, I originally typed "kinderfartner" on accident, and at least in his case, that's pretty accurate...)

And now... he's officially left those "early years" behind.  

I am not the kind of mom to become overly sentimental about my "babies" growing older.  (It may seem like I am, but I'm not.)  I don't lament the start of school in the fall, because, gosh darn it, I need a breather!  
I don't bemoan the first haircut, or any subsequent loss of curls.

I don't cry when they ride their bike without training wheels for the first time,

or lose their first tooth.

I've never felt sad packing away the baby toys and I generally offer a very large sigh of relief when the dreaded baby gates finally get put away.

And when it comes to my oldest son, I just throw my hands up and accept without much worry or care that I will simply never understand him.  This is difficult to admit, but even though he's only 6 there have been many hard moments between he and I.  I've wondered from time to time if our relationship is already broken, or at least worn so thin it can't fully be repaired to what it could have been.  He is my antithesis.  He is the serious to my laugh, the slow to my rush, the analytical to my emotional.  He is (and I don't say this to brag, but simply so you'll understand why I could have such issues with my son when he is so young) borderline genius and has a disturbing knack for pushing buttons.  He tries my patience nearly every minute, manipulates like a master, pushes the limits, must know the how, what, where, when, why for everything, is not content with parental guidance nor teaching moments, and generally considers himself an adult.  I love him and will love him no matter what the circumstance - no ifs, ands or buts.  But I will never fully understand him.  He's like a foreign species.

This week, in honor of bug making it all the way through the school year with very little incident (a frowny face on the daily chart here and there, which I suppose is to be expected) I left the two younger hooligans with Opa and surprised bug at school at lunch time.
They called him down to the office and I asked if he wanted to have lunch with me.  "Where's Zoe?" He asked.  
"With Opa.  It's just you and me."
My overly serious boy gave a teeny smile - the corners of his mouth barely taking an upward angle, you would have missed it if you blinked.
"Is Axel waiting in the car?"
"No, silly!  It's just you and me!"
And he took my hand on his own accord as we walked out the school doors.

My mind paused in it's constant state of feverish overthinking - you know the kind: 'what day is it again?  Did I remember to lock the garage?  Is he missing something important?  I wonder if Axel is screaming his head off.  Should I call and check on him?  How long has it been since I was away from the baby?  Wait, what day is it again?  What am I making for dinner for my parents?  Did I go grocery shopping yesterday??  I don't remember.  What was I going to do this morning?  I remember thinking it last night and then I thought I should write it down but I swore to myself I'd remember and now I can't think of it!!  Think!  Think!!  Did I comb my hair this morning?  I don't remember looking in them mirror.  What will the office ladies think??  Oh, wait.  I did comb my hair because I was looking in the mirror when the baby fell off the bed.  Did I just admit that?  Someone's going to call child services on me, I swear...  Where should we go for lunch?  It has to be something quick and cheap, but I hope he doesn't tell anyone I took him for fast food.  I mean, I should try to feed him something healthy right?  Maybe I should push him to pick Subway.

It paused.  And I actually felt that small hand that isn't so small anymore in my own hand.  And I thought about how telling it was that he couldn't seem to grasp the idea of going anywhere with just me.  Just me and only me.  Me all to himself.

And then we reached the car and the moment was gone.  He was chattering happily about the memory book he worked on today in class and the book about puppies his friend A. found - not the friend A. who moved away because she's still gone, but the other friend A. who is still here.  And excitedly sharing the problems they would get to work on with calculators later.  And no, he didn't mind if he had to miss recess, that was just fine by him...

He picked Taco Bell (because he knows I like Taco Bell) and was more excited than is probably normal to sit at the "high tables" in the "high chairs" because the "little kids" weren't there so we finally could.  And we talked.  We talked about who his friends were and how they pretended to be ninjas.  How he needed to take karate lessons right away so he could start his formal training to become a professional ninja.  We talked about the pages in his memory book from this year and how he was excited to be a first grader as soon as summer started.  We even had a brief "teachable moment" where we talked about "smokeless" cigarettes, the difference between them and "real" cigarettes and why they're probably still a bad idea.
Then we got donuts and sat outside and ate them.  He was excited to learn that he had picked daddy's favorite kind for himself.

I made a conscious effort to bite my tongue every single time I wanted to tell him to hurry.  For the most part, it was a welcome relief for me not to worry about rushing along.  We had plenty of time - thankfully he chose a place near school.  There were moments, near the end when I had to keep myself in check and use physical restraint from reminding him that we were on the clock.  I tried to remember that epiphany-like moment when I realized he needs more one on one attention and less pushing and prodding.  I succumbed to his naturally slower gait and waited patiently without once looking at my phone while he talked and ate with slow deliberation.  All in all, it wasn't a struggle, but a nice change of pace.

And then it was back to school.  I walked him in as the bell to come inside from recess was ringing - his friends calling to him and asking where he'd been.  His smile wasn't tentative anymore.  I gave him a resounding high five (to accolades from the office staff).  And then I left.

On the way home, I cried.

Of course, part of it could have been that I forgot my meds, but the majority was that I realized what a great time we'd had together, just he and I.  My brain swept back over that one hour of just the two of us and stopped at the momentary pause it took while walking to the car - his hand in mine.  What if we had more moments like this and less of me with my frazzled, too hectic brain that won't stop moving?  What if I could slow down and enjoy him more?  Perhaps my patience would extend farther.  Perhaps I would understand him more.  Perhaps I wouldn't so often look at him and wonder when he grew up. 

I don't REALLY wonder when it happened.  I was there through it all and I watched it happen.  I took the pictures.  And yet, looking back on his 6 years I recognize prolonged periods that make me wonder if I really was THERE.

There are times - sadly - that I feel like a failure as a mom.  Like 90% of the time at approximately 100% of everything I try to do.  I would be lying if I said that I was great at this.  I slip up.  I make mistakes.  Sometimes, unfortunately, I don't even try my hardest.  It's true.  But it wasn't leaving class early that made him freely hold my hand.  It wasn't the promise of lunch in a restaurant or even the delicious Dorito Taco.  It wasn't the donut I got him afterwards or the swelling feeling of self-importance for being the only kid out of school.  It was me.  Just me.  

Being there. 

I may fail sometimes.  I may not even try sometimes.  But in that fleeting moment there at lunch time I did it right.

So right here and now, in this period of clarity and epiphany and feeling like I actually lived up to my potential, I take a vow.  One that, because I am writing it down, will hopefully be looked back on again and again to refresh my haggard, haphazard, chaotic mind:

I vow to take the time every day to be in the moment with each of my kids.  Yes, I have responsibilities.  Yes, my brain will still move at a frantic pace and I will still have plenty that "needs to be done."  But this needs to be done MORE.

I vow to put the phone down.  Ok, not all day long, let's be realistic here.  I have to get in some Jelly Splash and 94 Degrees at some point... But it will be in short breaks from the day here and there.

I vow to be better to myself.  Because when I'm not good to myself, I'm no good to anyone.  Least of all my children.

I vow to make one on one time a priority.  None of my children should feel that they lack in attention.  And no matter how much I may think I'm giving the attention they deserve, they will always feel a lack if they must share it 100% of the time.  Divided attention isn't enough - it's a reality of most days, and they will learn that and understand that.  But sometimes, every so often each one deserves all of me.

I vow to take a deep breath.  To bite my tongue.  To pause the chaos in my mind.  To learn to chill.  Because they need it as much as I do.

I vow to seek the help I need to live up to my potential in motherhood.  Seek for advice, seek for a shoulder to cry on, seek for moments of alone time so I can gather myself together, seek for peaceful moments of prayer, seek the the teachings of Heavenly Father who knows what I can become and has seen what I can't inside of me.

It's a big list with a lot to work on.  But really it boils down to this one thing:

I wanted kids.  I prayed for kids.  I've cherished the privilege of being mom to each of my kids.  Now it is time to remember that - and not only remember it but act on it.

{Click here to read more Tales From The Crib.  You can also read Things My Two Year Old Taught Me - the predecessor to TFTC.}

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!*
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