Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FBSG: The Crafts

please note hair and clothing during FB.

Our home is always a flurry of fake productivity in the form of crafts. In our kitchen roughly a quarter of our pantry space is dedicated to paper, pens, coloring books, googly eyes, glue sticks, markers, crayons (melted and otherwise), foam mosaics, wooden figures, plaster bobbleheads, and the like. Then in the basement – which we recently finished – there is a “guest” room that is roughly the size of two bedrooms and has two closets, a sewing table, two sewing machines, a work table overflowing with computers and files and project ideas, an ironing board, and the remnants and preparations of thousands of craft ideas that I have either cooked up and never finished or tried and abandoned with little to no success. It’s safe to say that any break from school includes a crafternoon, or two,maybe three. It’s also likely that said crafts will be ambitious, messy, overwhelming to the entire house, and somewhat popular with the littles.
Over Fall Break I had my hidden craft surprises and one that I let the children choose. The second half of that statement actually reflects the extent to which I will go when I am bribing my children in a fabric store.

Our surprise crafts were the frosting and chocolate cookie haunted house, the wood bead spooky creatures, and a foam haunted house. These came out of The Halloween Box.

But on a frenzied afternoon at JoAnn’s I happened upon a 99 cent pattern sale that I had to look through. Had to. So, I told the boys to also look through the patterns and find a craft they might like to make during Fall Break. They picked Simplicity 5310, McCall’s 6052, and McCall’s 6481. I did say ambitious, right?

I bought all three patterns but when the rubber hit the road and I actually made the boys cut their own patterns and hunt for their own fabric scraps (in my scrap bag that is daunting) they narrowed their scope of work to McCall’s 6481. This pattern aids in the creation of a zoo of stuffed toys that look an awful lot like Angry Birds, thus the appeal.

The wood bead craft took only an hour. I like crafts to take at least two hours because you spend a half hour preparing and another half hour cleaning up. So, you better get the most out of your Fall Break, right?

But the Angry Birds took all night long. The boys cut their own pattern pieces and selected their own fabric. I had some concerns about Mason’s choices at first. But you know what, he has an artist's eye and it all worked out famously. This pattern is a bit fiddly for a novice sewist. It was hard for my children to do much more than the body pieces and the stuffing. I was left to close the birds and sew details like the eyes. I would recommend making this in fleece or felt. My kids just used what I had which made for some tricky materials to run through the machine.

The two boys attacked the project differently. Cooper's was the most ambitious. He got the cutting done much faster than Mason. Mason took at least an hour deciding what fabric scraps to use and then chatted the entire time he was stuffing the bird. Topic? What to name it. 

I don’t understand why this pattern made such small animals. The scale could be bumped up probably 50% and make for a really great pillow or stuffed animal. Were I to make these again, I would absolutely take the pattern to a copy store and ask for an enlargement.

As for my sewing during Fall Break, I prepared for the holiday rush season for Cutie Petutie Originals and then sewed Vogue 1261, New Look 6977, and two of Simplicity 2911. For reals, that’s a lot of sewing. I’ll be writing about all these patterns and showing pictures of the finished awesomeness on my sewing blog

Friday, October 26, 2012

FBSG: The Field Trips

Every Fall Break adventure should be sprinkled with field trip. That is not to say you should take your children somewhere new every day they are on break. This will exhaust them. It also sets you up for disaster once summer comes. Those little brains of theirs remember that load of activity and will expect it all. Summer. Long. Do yourself a favor and be mediocre during Fall Break.

We had 5 trips a field. This sounds like a lot over 10 days, but two of the trips were actually repeat locations.

Trip No. 1: The Zoo
I had the pleasure of being invited to join some other mothers and their sons to the zoo on the first day of break. This was a herd of 2nd grade-kindergarten boys and four moms. There were a lot of boys. As is our lot in life, we live 17 miles away from the zoo. Once boys were loaded, we’d driven the 30 minutes, and found a parking spot, and renewed our zoo membership to the tune of $100, the sky – which had been forecast to be 70 degrees and sunny – turned cloudy and black. We even felt a few drops.

While I’d like to say we are usually very prepared for this type of thing, the only coat in the car was mine. So, I marched myself right into the gift shop and bought sweatshirts for everyone. I then got sucked into buying huge stuffed animals. It was like a whole thing. Blah!
Please note how large my kindergartner is (on left end).

The next few hours were enjoyable. The boys were with their friends. I was with mine. And we didn’t loose anyone. Have you ever noticed there is a time limit on such peace? Someone in the group of 8 starts to whine a little bit and complain of hunger, the lead dogs start to stray a little farther from the group, the pensive observers start to linger a little longer at each exhibit and you can tell the end is near. This is when I decided to call it quits. Call me a party pooper but I can tell when I’m about to yell at my kids and I don’t want to do that in front of people, so I left.  Everyone should know when to leave.

Trip No 2: Haunted Party Shop
All of the costumes in our house were decided but we were missing some parts and pieces. Before I plunged into trying to sew something before Halloween we decided to visit a costume shop in Old Towne Littleton.  It was super creepy. Mason’s heart rate soared and he was trembling and he had to be carried in. (Yes, we’re those parents.) Once inside he relaxed and cozied up to the deli case filled with body parts. My husband and I jumped our original costume ship and decided on new ones on the spot. Then we procured a few of the small things we needed for the kids’ costumes. I’m totally looking forward to showing off those pictures next week.

Trip No 3: Lifetime Fitness Swimming Pool
I’m always in favor of killing two birds with one stone. Remember the request to go swimming? When another mom friend of mine asked what our plans for Fall Break were (I think she was trolling for ideas) I confessed that our plans were modest, just the swimming pool. Then she saved my day. She offered up her club’s pool and decided to join us.

Off we traveled to Lifetime Fitness. I signed in which was a total cluster and the kids jumped in the pool. Then a lifeguard approached me and informed me that if I didn’t plan on getting in the pool my kids would have to take a swim test. Part of me laughed inside because I was like, “Yeah, my son wants your job.” The other part of me was like, “Oh, I wonder if my other son will have performance anxiety about this.” But I offered them up he pulled them aside -- to another pool in fact -- and told them to swim a lap without stopping, touching the wall or rope, or needing help of any kind. Cooper jumped in, swam his lap, and started back toward the other pool. Mason started a negotiation. Then he methodically slipped into the pool and started swimming. Without a struggle he swam the full lap, climbed out of the pool then looked up at the guy (goggles still on) and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Is that all you got?”

Proud of those two. We may get Mason to do swim team, yet.

I also want to say, this is a brilliant system and I sincerely think more pools should have this rule. 

Trip No 4: A Traffic Jam
One of our field trips was to the city. Yes, I said it. We’ve become that suburban. Wanting to see our friends who had recently moved closer to downtown from the burbs we planned a dinner date at their house – two moms, five boys.

But something, I don’t know what, had traffic all snarly. A drive that literally takes 30 minutes turned into 90 minutes! Let’s review. Trapped in a tin can with two small boys. Dinner time. 90 minutes of snail pace movement.

It was an extraordinary reminder that I don’t like commuting at all.

Trip No 5: The Zoo, II
OK. I know what you’re thinking. Why? Because it is never the same. We met some friends and the weather was much better. We didn’t stay as long, but we saw more. It was great. Well, except for the part when the boy elephant let it all hang out – if you know what I mean. That was so uncomfortable. My boys couldn’t even laugh, they were horrified into silence.  Oh did I mention we were with friends, girl friends?!?!?!?

The most exciting part of the second zoo adventure was our license plate hunt. This is a game we play pretty much non-stop everywhere we go. But for some reason early in the trip we could tell we were going to have a record day. The object of the game is to find as many different states’ plates as possible. I don’t mean vanity plates or one state’s multiple versions. I mean different states. We saw 28! Also, there are a lot of Texans here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Break: A 10-Day Guide to Survival

Before we stroll down this majestic, tree-lined street of autumnal nostalgia I would like to first announce that I’m one of the moms that likes when my kids are on break. Some moms hate it. I appreciate that sentiment. Frankly, if I had some of the kids that are out there, I’d hate it too. But I love it. I look forward to it. I plan for it.

The secret to having a successful Fall Break (insert Christmas Break, Spring Break, Summer Break) is to ask your kids what they want to do. Ask this well in advance of the break. And make it a homework assignment (I don’t home school but my kids write a lot of extra essays under my direction).  I believe I posed the question something like this:

Please write a short paragraph and illustrate the top activities you would like to do during Fall Break.  Scanned answers posted here:


As you can see, the expectations weren’t that high. All I had to do was break out a football at the park and take the kids swimming. (Let me also add that when my children request to go swimming beyond the two hours a week they both put in at swim practice I am always gobstopped.)

Then I break out the secret weapon. This comes with a little bit of planning, so I’m sharing my secret now so that you can be ready for next year. That’s right, next year. At the close of the Halloween shopping frenzy I go to Michael’s, JoAnn’s, and even Target and shop their clearance sales. In the beginning I only shopped costumes because my kids were big on the dress up scene. But when they outgrew that I started to just buy the crafts and activities. These are always pennies on the dollar at clearance time. This is a clandestine operation. Pack your purchases away with the plastic pumpkins and ghost garlands when you put away your decorations.

Once my kids are actually let out for school I break out the bin of decorations and start unveiling all the fun surprises that they will have for Fall Break. This year we had the following activities at our disposal:

New decorations for the porch
Jack-O-Lantern face stickers for everything from pumpkins to artwork
Wood bead skeleton and witch kit
Masquerade masks to be decorated with feathers and sequins
Miniature finger puppets
Foam haunted house (like a gingerbread house but foam)
Gingerbread haunted house and gingerbread haunted cemetery

Also in my decorations bin I store the Halloween books (children’s picture books), Halloween linens, the skeleton pillows (sewn on Fall Break last year), and Halloween cookie cutters. When these get unearthed the boys go bananas to be reunited with their toys and reread old favorites.

What ensues after Pandora’s box of Halloween decorations is opened is really fabulous. While it all goes quickly, it’s never boring, nor frustrating. I just pick up another activity out of the pile of fun and we move on. It’s messier than my lonely days when they are in school. But it is short-lived, a mere 10 days.

And there you have it, a clue. In the next few days I’ll be sharing with you some of our Fall Break adventures – just to get your creative juices flowing.

PS – May I also recommend you take in someone else’s pet gerbils for the week? Pet-sitting is a tremendous learning experiences for the littles and adds to the Fall Break commotion.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview with a 6-Year-Old

The boys before school, playing minecraft.

It's my aim to interview my children each year on their birthdays. But the thing with interviewing children is it has to happen when they want to talk about themselves. Otherwise each answer is: No, Yes, I Don't Know, Maybe. That sucks. So, you wait. Then you wait. Then you start to worry that their next birthday will come around before you complete the interview. And then you realize that you're failing at the goal to interview your children each year just like you are failing to take their pictures on the first day of school each year. And then... ahhh, then a nice Sunday morning comes along and your 6-year-old opens up. 

Well, actually not exactly. I lied to him. 

It started with the topic of parent-teacher conferences. I told him that I was about to have a conference with his teacher and I needed to be prepared to answer her questions to me about him. Would he help me prepare? Yes, he fell for that one. Here follows my short birthday interview with Mason -- a mere 10 days after his birthday. 

Picking his birthday pencil from teacher, he picked a St. Patrick's Day pencil.

Do you save your money? 
Yes, I'm saving my money from grandpa. 

What are you saving for? 
Hmmmmm. a LEGO. 

Which one? 
I don't know, yet. 

Do you know what donate means? 
Give something away.

If you were to donate your money, who would you give it to? 

He must be very special to you. Is he your best friend? 
Yes, Ben, Crew, Ty and ... long pause ... that's it. 

In what ways are you generous? 
Being kind to other people. 

Who is the most famous person you ever met? 
What does famous mean? 

It means they did something important or funny or bad and then everyone talked about it so that when they go anywhere, everyone recognizes them. An example would be Barak Obama. 
I don't know. Maybe Max's mom (she's a a reporter, this answer is funny to me). 

A unintentional break from the interview:
Looking at a book titled, "Ain't Gonna Paint No More!" (Mason really likes the illustrations in this book and is looking at the page with a hand, painted green and made to look like the face of a monster with ants crawling out of the mouth). 

Mom, that would be so funny to color your hand like that. The ants look like they would... like they were marching on your hand. And then there could be dirt and stuff (he starts to air-draw around the hand as if he is seeing more of the picture than is there.) 

What's your favorite chore? 
Cleaning the bathroom. 

Because I like cleaning with wipes and stuff. The upstairs bathroom, you know. But in the bathtub, you can't step in it and wipe. You have to put the wipe in, stand on it (then he puts his hands out as if he is holding himself up on the edges of the tub and motions to swing inside the tub). The edges you have to sweep yourself. Guess why? Every time you step on it if you clean something and then you step on it it's only going to get dirtier. 

OK, interview done. Go play. I love you. 
Oh hey mama, this is the playing cards song: First you draw, then you play, then you throw a card away. 

Who taught you that? 

And now, the day in pictures. 

Mason picked to have golf and dinner at our club.

Golf interrupted by worm hunting.


He's getting really good at this game.

Their other love at the club, running the hill.

1 candles, 2 cherries

May your wishes comes true.

Silliest brother, ever!

With Daddy

And Mama

Even the King has Chores

Presents Opening Time

Angry Birds PJs were well received, and total surprise.

Tweet Tweet!

And if you liked this... you'll like his 5th birthday, too. If you'd rather read about Cooper, visit his 6th Birthday.