Sunday, March 28, 2010

Growth Charts

For some reason, I have a special compulsion about growth charts. I have always loved the idea of marking the passage of time on them, but was never able to commit to one because I just loved all of them. Silly, huh?

I resorted to using the back of our basement door for our family’s growth chart. I measured Katie for the first time on her first birthday. I put hash marks on the door and wrote the date and posted a photo of the kids standing at the door. I always figured that if and when we ever move, we’ll just take the entire door with us.IMGP4593

But I recently got a bee in my bonnet and decided to make a true growth chart. I was hesitant to do this, since the kids are now three and six, and I didn’t want to break the continuity of something I already started. But I went ahead with it anyway.

I bought an unfinished board from Home Depot for about $5. I painted it white twice. The first time I used spray paint, which was too splotchy. The second time I used a brush and acrylic craft paint, which worked much better. Last Thursday, I asked Dan to mount it to the wall near our basement door. I figured I was pressing my luck to ask him to mount it in such a conspicuous place in our kitchen, where people could actually see it. But he actually did it without comment. And the next thing that happened made me question his sanity. He actually asked me to paint a design on it. That is unheard of in our house. Dan’s decorating preference is pretty plain with clean lines. So when he suggested I paint a vine or something resembling Jack’s Beanstalk, I about fell over. I hustled to my craft supplies and found some paint and brushes and whipped up a beanstalk – all free form too! Another unheard-of in our house. I don’t do decorative painting, so I surprised myself by painting without a plan.IMGP4588

I painted the beanstalk on Thursday night, then had the kids make red thumbprints on the board Friday morning. I turned those into ladybugs at the bottom of the beanstalk, and added the measurements and photos from the basement door. We measured Jackson on the chart today, to mark his third birthday. Dan and I even added our own measurements afterwards.IMGP4732-

I am really happy with how our growth chart turned out, and pleased that it’s more portable than the basement door. Now I just have to use elbow grease and the Magic Eraser to get the old markings off the basement door!IMGP4736

Jackson’s Construction Party

IMGP4606 Before I go into all the details, let me preface this by saying I am a Grinch. A party pooper at heart. It hasn’t always been this way. But having kids and feeling the cultural obligation to have over-the-top parties has soured me a bit on birthday parties. I don’t mind attending others’ parties, but planning our own family’s has made me Grinchy. I’ve even been toying with the idea of not having a party for Katie this year. Instead, I’ll let her pick one or three friends (You can’t have an odd number of girls – ever.) and take them somewhere like Build-a-Bear workshop or out to a special dinner. It’s an idea I’m still formulating.

But it still doesn’t get me off the hook for Jackson’s parties. Heaven forbid that one day down the road, he whines that “Katie got all the special privileges! She got to have parties until she was six and you stopped having parties for me at age two!” Siblings whine about the treatment of others, you know. (Of course, my siblings would never do that. Right.) I’d like to say that I’ll just turn to him and reply, “Deal with it!” Hmmm… that’s an idea. But until then, I must party on and plan chaos for my little angels. Ahem.

So… now that those details are out of the way, I can tell you about the *small* party we had for Jackson. It was a very limited guest list (immediate family, two neighbors, and two friends) and I fretted quite a bit about offending other friends for not including them on the guest list. It finally boiled down to a question of who Jackson sees most often, and I just drew a line there.

I searched online for cute (read: EASY) party ideas, and settled on three: space, football or construction. FamilyFun magazine’s website had really great ideas for all of these themes, and I compared them and settled on the construction theme. It seemed easiest, cheapest and involved the least amount of craftiness. Woo hoo! I based everything on this link I read on their website.

First off, here’s the invitation. Dan used his engineer-ish handwriting to write the invitations on strips of balsa wood. I hand-delivered the invitations to our guests with a wooden bulldozer.IMGP4239edited

The decorations were simple. I used this tutorial I found on Ohdeedoh and sewed up some two-color streamers.IMGP4222

We also decorated with cones, orange caution tape, yellow balloons, and yellow construction signs made out of poster board. I used our own toy dump trucks and borrowed some from neighbors for more decorations and toys for the kids to use. In the photo, you can also see LOTS of large cardboard boxes.IMGP4598

When each party guest arrived, he or she was given a personalized tool belt to wear. Inside the belt was a selection of personalized foam tools for the guests to play with all day then take home as their favor. I found the tool belts and foam tools for a dollar each at Michael’s. I personalized them to make them cuter, but also because I didn’t want to end up with three extra hammers or wrenches at the end of the day. This way, everyone took home their own favor!IMGP4596

The tool belts also held one of each of these bean bags I made from extra felt. The bean bags were personalized too.IMGP4318

We used some of the dump trucks to hold chips and dip on the food table. You can see the cute plates I found too. The orange and yellow square plates were from the Wal-Mart Easter aisle, but they fit in our theme perfectly. The stop sign plates were just circular red plates I found and trimmed into an octagon with scissors. FYI: don’t think you can be all cute and write “caution” or “detour” on the plates. I tried that with Sharpies and it didn’t work. The plates have a waxy coating that Sharpies can’t adhere to.IMGP4603

Besides the HUGE appliance boxes that I collected from local stores for the kids to crawl in, color and beat on, I also saved paper towel tubes and random small boxes for the kids to stack and knock down. I tore the boxes apart on their seams, flipped them inside out, and taped them together again.IMGP4623

To keep the kids busy, there were markers and paint daubers to color the cardboard boxes, plus we had a marshmallow building activity. The kids got a pile of toothpicks and marshmallows, and built Tinker-Toy-style. They ate more than they built, but it kept them occupied until pizza arrived.IMGP4653

The masterpiece of the party was the amazing backhoe cake that Grandma made using this link from FamilyFun. Jackson’s face lit up when he first saw it, and he kept asking throughout the party, “Can I eat my cake yet?”IMGP4620

Grandma also made some dirt dessert cups, complete with gummy worms and bugs. They were delicious!IMGP4621

Turns out the party was lots of fun, not too expensive, and small enough that the chaos was at a minimum. I think Jackson enjoyed himself. Can you tell?

IMGP4665 IMGP4696

Happy Third Birthday


You are a big boy today – at least that’s what you keep telling us. I’ve been reminding you that you still have to go on the potty to be a big kid, but you are glossing over that fact. Potty time isn’t so exciting to you.

You’d rather spend your time on the other benefits of being a big kid. This morning’s breakfast was a big kid moment for you because I let you start taking Katie’s big kid gummy vitamins. (The real reason is because we ran out of the chewable tablet kind yesterday, so today seemed a good day to start you on the ones you’ve been begging to eat for a while now.) Just remember that being a big kid brings big responsibilities with it, besides the potty jobs. You recently got your very own marble jar, so you can earn privileges for helping with laundry and putting away dishes. It’s hard work being a big kid, isn’t it?

You make me laugh, Jackson. This is a fun age to watch, and you entertain us with funny sayings and your matter-of-fact opinion on life. You like to declare things “bad” or call yourself “bad boy,” even though I scold you for doing so. You love-love-love making anything into a gun, whether it’s a bread crust, a Cheeto, a chow mein noodle, or Legos you stack into gun shapes. The way your brain works amazes me.

I am flabbergasted on a regular basis by how you like to get around the rules or change things around in your mind. You know that the word “stupid” is not allowed in our house, so you toe the line by saying “stukid” instead. Same word, really – just a “k” sound instead of a “p” in the  middle. You made me laugh the other day when you heard the Lady GaGa song called “Poker Face.” You changed the words to “Kick Her Face” instead. Honestly, child. Where do you get these ideas?

I am so proud of the little boy you’re becoming. Your motor skills are fantastic. You are always challenging yourself physically (and me and Daddy too) by climbing on things that are WAY too big or high for you. Yesterday, you did monkey bars on the playground yourself, and hung on them just so you could try to land on your feet. You actually succeeded, too. You recently started riding a two-wheeler bike, and it took you only 4 minutes to figure it out and go off on your merry way.

You are so determined. So headstrong and focused sometimes. I keep reminding myself that is a good character trait, because you will be a world-changer when you grow up. But for now, it can be downright frustrating for me. Your single-mindedness means I can’t distract you from danger or dessert, nor can I convince you to cheer up when you’re crabby – as you are (without fail) every time you wake up in bed. You have no idea how frustrating it can be to get you up from a nap when you are screaming at me whether I stay or go. I’d say you are NOT a morning person.IMGP4343a

But, oh! Man, are you freaking cute. I know I’m your mom and I’m biased, but I really think you are abnormally cute. Or maybe that should be “above-average” or something. I often ask our friends if they think you are cute too, or if it’s just me. They always agree that you are extra cute, and I truly don’t think they’re just humoring me. (And if they are, I hope they keep quiet anyway.) You are edibly cute, in the I-want-to-just-eat-you-up kind of way. The way you smile with your chubby cheeks and squeeze your eyes into slits and squinch your nose makes me melt inside. And when I rock you before bedtime? Oh, heaven. When I am taking the last breaths of my life, I am sure one of my fondest memories will be rocking you. The way you nuzzle in to my neck, the way you hold my face in your hands and plant a slobbery kiss on me, the way you stare intently at me and whisper, “I love you, Mommy.” Life doesn’t get any better than that. You are one big piece of happiness in my life, Jackson. And in the same breath, it’s bittersweet because I would so very much love to  see how your namesake and my parents would have eaten you up. I think they’d be head over heels in love with you.

After all, I am. In love with you. And so is Daddy and Katie, too. Thank you for all the ways you fill our hearts.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chuck E Cheese

Jackson and I got to spend some time with our bloggy friends Gina and Logan on Tuesday. We met up with them at Chuck E Cheese, and the boys had a blast.100_2262

Jackson has always been a little above average in the language department. He speaks in full sentences and blows my mind with the things he says sometimes. But on Tuesday, he was so overjoyed to be at Chuck E Cheese that he resorted to grunts and arm gestures to get what he wanted. I made him slow down a few times and think through what he wanted until he was able to use his words and ask.

I love that he gets so excited about life that his brain can hardly function.

At one point, Jackson turned around and Chuck E Cheese – the real one! – was standing right in front of him. He jumped and squealed and ran right up to Chuck E and hugged him.100_2258

Gina and I didn’t get to talk much because our boys were running all over the place with excitement, but we did get to eat salads together and chat for a bit over lunch. That was nice!

Let me know when you’re ready to meet up again, Gina!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It Feels Like Summer

The weather in St. Louis was fantastic yesterday. We played outside for almost three hours after Katie arrived home from school. The kids all stopped in their tracks the moment they heard the electronic crazy music from the ice cream truck. Some of them ran inside to raid their piggy banks, and we all ended up with a treat.IMGP4584a

I’m sure you all agree with me in saying spring is sooooo overdue in our house. I can’t wait to let the kids out to roam free in the yard!

Wordless Wednesday

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while…IMG_3250a

Yes, that’s a tarantula on my face.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jackson on a Two-Wheeler

I apologize for not posting much lately. Having Katie home all day during Cycle Break really does take a lot out of me.

I’ve been meaning to post photos of Jackson that we took last week. He is riding a two-wheel bike (with training wheels, of course) all by himself now.IMGP4322a

His coordination never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I’m amazed that he isn’t even three yet (very close, though). He runs and kicks balls so well. When he jumps off of things, he almost always lands on his feet. It’s like he has some weird cat genes that help him land right-side up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Hundred Vitamins

I opened a new bottle of daily vitamins last night, to add to my repertoire of medicines. It was a big bottle, with 200 vitamins inside. I started wondering when exactly I’ll run out and have to buy more. Two hundred days from March 15 is… October 1. Yes, I did the math. The hard, tedious way – counting the calendar days one by one.

On October 1, 2010, I’ll have a three year old and a seven year old. I will be preparing for another season to turn, just like I am right now. I assume most parts of my life will be the same, but then I realize how much I assume. Any minor (or major) thing could happen in the next 199 days and change my life’s direction. Then again, nothing much could happen, and I might just consume the next 199 days without even stopping to think about it. Like a daily vitamin, swallowed without care, not even noticed until the bottle is empty.

Do we ever stop to count the miniscule ways we use up life every day? The vitamin bottle seems so full right now, with only yesterday’s vitamin missing. Tonight, I’ll take the second of 200 and the bottle will get just slightly lighter. The fullness is lessening before my eyes. Just barely, but it is.

How many more vitamins are in my proverbial bottle? How many more days do I have left? How will I spend those precious days? I hope wisely. With passion, conviction, joy, love for God and my family.

I wonder, do I think about endings more often than most people, because of the tragic endings I’ve had in my life? Or does anyone else think about this kind of stuff too?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Flower Fairies

Katie and I had some great craft time yesterday. We made fairies from fabric flowers, beads and wires. We followed the tutorial here, but modified it a little to fit our supplies. This was such an easy craft, and really a lot of fun.IMGP4265

We made seven fairies, but the photo only shows six. Katie had already taken her favorite to her room for safe keeping.IMGP4269

I have a new favorite blog (Filth Wizardry), and there are tons of great ideas for making fairies by using Barbies and Polly Pockets you already have - just adding wings. The blog also gave me ideas for making fairy houses out of plastic containers, so we spent Jackson’s nap time today making two fairy houses out of an empty milk jug and drink bottle. I cut windows and doors out with a Fiskars fingertip craft knife, then Katie got busy coloring with the Sharpies. These two houses are going to be part of a birthday gift for her friend (along with some of the flower fairies she made yesterday). I sure hope the friend’s mom doesn’t think I’ve lost my mind by giving her daughter decorated recyclables as birthday gifts!IMGP4287

I think this fairy is my favorite. Her crazy hair looks like mine!IMGP4270

Party Streamers

I saw this idea for sewing ruffled party streamers on Ohdeedoh, and wanted to try making some for Jackson’s upcoming birthday. I have never sewn paper before, so this was new to me. It took me a few moments to get the hang of stuffing the streamers under my presser foot (in order to create the bumpy ruffles), but it was so easy and so forgiving after that. I was going to sew an entire roll of crepe paper streamers, but decided to stop about halfway through the roll. Here’s the pile of finished streamers:IMGP4222

After the success of sewing streamers, I moved on to sewing some other paper. This is a banner I made for my neighbor, who is having a baby girl and naming her Joy. I sewed the circles together, then added ribbon later. It is bigger than it looks in the photo. The circles are about 3 inches in diameter.IMGP4226

Car and Marker Cozies

Oh, this was fun. And sooo easy! I saw these cozies at My Little Gems, and had to try my hand at them. If you know how to sew even a tiny bit, I’d recommend making these. I didn’t go all out with the appliqued denim road, but I think the cozies I made work just fine. Here’s a photo of them rolled up:IMGP4159

This shows Jackson’s car cozy, full of cars:IMGP4161

I made an art cozy for Katie’s markers, which turned out well too:IMGP4164

Then I got all kinds of crafty. I made another art cozy as a birthday present for one of Katie’s friends, and included a pocket for a small notebook (personalized with the birthday girl’s name), along with a set of colored pencils. This one is my favorite:IMGP4224

Purses I Made

In the midst of all this craftiness lately (more posts on that coming soon!), I came across two purses I made at least a year ago, and wanted to show them here. The first is a placemat purse. Here’s a link to a tutorial if you want to make one too, although I didn’t use this exact tutorial to make mine. I made this black one from a placemat I got at the Dollar Store, then added handles I bought at a craft store.IMGP4167

The second purse is made from a pair of jeans that Katie outgrew. I just cut off the legs, sewed the holes up and added handles. I love this one because it reminds me how little Katie used to be, and I also like having the extra jeans pockets to stash lipstick and my cell phone.IMGP4170

On a sidenote, I also wanted to make sure you click here to see a cute shirt set I made for the kids last night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Easter Outfits

I wanted to share photos of the kids’ Easter outfits that Grandma and Poppy bought for them yesterday. I will have to exchange Jackson’s because it’s a bit too small, but you get the general idea. The outfits color coordinate (light green) without being too matchy-matchy.IMGP4249

I think my kids are pretty darn adorable. I’ll post photos after Easter when I have better full-body shots, which will show their cute dress shoes that I got for a bargain price at Wal-Mart today.

And here’s one last photo to show another dress that Grandma bought Katie. It won’t be for Easter, but we couldn’t pass up the pleated red, white and blue skirt. We made excuses that she can wear it this summer when I’ll plan a special photo shoot.IMGP4251

John Denver Lyrics Keep Floating Through My Head

Seriously. I kept hearing this on repeat all day long: “You fill up my senses/Like a night in the forest/Like the mountains in springtime/Like a walk in the rain/Like a storm in the desert/Like a sleepy blue ocean/You fill up my senses/Come fill me again.”

Do you think there might be something wrong with me?

Nah. I can attribute this John Denver-itis to the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G weather we had yesterday and today. It has been fantastic. I think my heart dug up the John Denver song as a way to say thank you to God for reminding me that winters never last.

We played outside for almost three hours yesterday, after Katie and I shopped for Easter outfits. I was struck by how the good weather made all my senses come back to life. I saw colors I haven’t seen in so long, felt the wind brush my skin and the sun kiss my cheeks. I also got a kick out of watching Jackson when I put a short sleeve shirt on him. He has gotten so used to having his arms covered that he kept yanking on his short sleeves, as if trying to pull them down and cover his skin again.

Today, we were outside for another three or four hours. We had lunch on the front porch, and I borrowed an idea I read recently on someone’s blog. (And now I’m annoyed because I can’t find the correct link to copy here! I thought I got the idea from Muffin Tin Mondays, but can’t find it there. So I apologize for not being able to give the proper credit here.) Anyway, I served the kids’ lunches in empty heart-shaped chocolate boxes. The plastic liners that usually cradle the chocolates were made perfectly for bite-size portions of sandwiches, cheese and tomatoes.IMGP4258

Jackson wouldn’t take off his helmet for lunch.IMGP4257

Unfortunately, the forecast calls for rain tomorrow. Bummer. But at least we got two unexpectedly beautiful days this week, and I will try not to be greedy for more!

The History of Aprons

“I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath. Because she only had a few dresses, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears. From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms. Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron. From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees. When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds. When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the menfolks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner. It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.”

I received this email from an old family friend last week. It made me feel nostalgic, so I visited the local antique mall this past weekend. I found a full-size apron and bought it for ten bucks. One of the ties in the back was missing, so I sewed on pink ribbons and it’s as good as new. I’ve been wearing it all week while I cook and craft, and it has already been a stand-in for a Band-Aid (I cut my finger) and saved my clothes from splashing tomato sauce.

Here’s a photo of me wearing it while sewing a birthday gift for Katie’s friend. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to sew my own NEW apron and it will hopefully fit a little better!IMGP4218

Thursday, March 4, 2010

You Belong to Me

IMGP9710a You press your nose against my cheek, and I smell peanut butter. It must be lingering from this morning's breakfast. I nuzzle in close to your neck, and I smell your dip from lunch. I inhale and breathe you in, the little boy scent that's kind of like dirt mixed with sugar.

You wrap your arms around my neck, and tell me you want to listen to a different song before nap time. I ask which one and you reply, "Oh Danny Boy." I start that song, and then you say, "No. I want Mommy's favorite song." So I skip to number seven on your CD, and you lean in close again. You are in motion even when you're laying quietly against my chest. Some part of your body is always moving, and it makes me think of how much you moved when you were still inside me.

We whisper-sing the lyrics of the song to each other, and your voice elevates a little on the line, "Fly the ocean in a silver plane." My mind forwards to years from now, when I imagine you traveling the world as a middle-aged man who is taking a business trip, or maybe just 15 years from now when you are leaving for college. Will you still be in love with me then like you are now?

You sing the last lyrics to me, in a declaration that quiets my worries. No longer whispering, you say, "You belong to me, Mommy." Yes, sweet Jackson, I belong to you!

You Belong to Me
See the pyramids along the Nile. Watch the sunset from a tropic isle. Just remember darlin' all the while,
You belong to me.
See the marketplace in Old Algiers.
Send me photographs and souvenirs.
Just remember when a dream appears,
You belong to me.
I'll be so lonesome without you.
Maybe you'll be lonesome too, and blue.
Fly the ocean in a silver plane.
See the jungle when it's wet with rain.
Just remember 'til you're home again,
You belong to me.
Lyrics by Pee Wee King, Chilton Price and Redd Stewart

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bracing for Cycle Break

I haven’t been very good about posting lately, have I? I’ve been spending Jackson’s nap time looking up crafts and projects online in preparation for Katie’s cycle break from school, which starts on Friday. If you remember, we are in a year-round school district that has school in session for nine weeks and then off for three (which we call cycle breaks). I love that school goes back in session in July, but those three week breaks can be pretty rough. The good news is that this coming cycle break is shortened to 12 days instead of 16, because of snow days. Yahoo!

I’ve compiled a list of projects Katie and I can work for the next two weeks. I thought I’d share the ideas here too.

Cycle Break Bingo – This is an idea from my friend Carrie, and Katie completed one on the fall cycle break. That link shows the bingo sheet I blogged about in the fall.
Fairies like the ones here or here.
Flower suckers like these here – but Katie had the brilliant idea of making them into shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Cute!
Spool letters – I think I’ll be the one making them to surprise Katie.
Marker and/or car caddies – another craft that will be mostly me-oriented (since it involves a machine).
Fantasy photos – oh, how I love crafts in Family Fun magazine!
A marble run on the refrigerator.
A marble maze – we already have a nail board like this, but I never thought to add marbles and turn it into a maze. Fun!
Sock bunnies – won’t these be so cute for Easter?

I’m actually looking forward to this cycle break because of all the projects we have planned, plus some other fun outings with my mom’s group. Grandma also says she wants a sleepover with the kids, which always helps break up the chaos a bit. I don’t know how many of these projects we’ll actually complete, but I’m hoping for some fun bonding with Katie. We already visited my current favorite store (Leftovers, of course!) to stock up on supplies. I’ll let you know how the projects are going!


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