Wordless Wednesday – Super Bowl Party, A La My Kids

**Warning: too many pictures of how I scrambled to keep my kids busy so that my husband could watch the pre-game stuff**

Football strips...

Football strips…


…turned into football chain for the tv.


posters and pennants advertising the game and the teams


up close shot of our “football field” pennant


our special football chips and dip platter

Our football shaped/themed cups

Our football shaped/themed cups

Our Super Bowl football cake that I made from scratch and decorated to perfection (sarcasm people)

Our Super Bowl football cake that I made from scratch and decorated to perfection (sarcasm people)

Operation Smile, Valentine’s Edition

I am reposting the link to our charitable blog below as we have updated our Operation Smile list to include several more sick children who would love to receive Valentine’s from you!  Please help us shower each one with cheerful cards! (If you have already started, please check the updated list for the new names and addresses!)

Thank you so much to everyone who has already said they will be participating!

Mikey’s Helping Place: Operation Smile, Valentine’s Edition

DIY Ice House

A few weeks ago, my son brought home an assignment to create an “ice house” that could keep ice from melting.  He could use any materials he wanted as long as they weren’t toxic (don’t you love that teachers have to actually spell that out for the few idiots out there that would try to make a 2nd grade science project out of something toxic?!) and as long as the measurements weren’t bigger than 8x8x8.

Sounds easy enough…until you sit down to hear your 7-year-old’s suggestions, which leads you to thinking about how his skill level, and yours for that matter, don’t quite mesh with his brilliant ideas.  Then, the easy 2nd grade project turns into a mad dash to figure out what in the world you can do without spending a ton of money and without you having to do most of the work.  Ooh the crazy world of elementary science!

After discussing several possibilities with my son (including his pitch of just buying a small cooler – duh), we decided that we should use either an aluminum can or a styrofoam cup to hold the actual ice cube and then house that inside of a bigger, more insulated box of some sort.  We did a quick experiment on our own to see whether the can or the cup would hold the ice the best by just setting them on the counter with one ice cube in each and leaving them for an hour.  At the end of the hour, the styrofoam cup ice cube had barely melted at all and the aluminum can ice cube was a huge puddle of water; we decided to go with the styrofoam cup.

We were originally going to use a shoe box to hold the cup, but then I came across an old baby wipes box with the perfect sized opening in the top to place the ice cube and my son chose to use that instead so that we could have the ice cube enclosed as much as possible.

winnie the pooh box, ready to become an ice house

winnie the pooh box, ready to become an ice house

He knew he was going to use the styrofoam cup, but we needed to add more to the inside of the box to make sure that the cup didn’t move and to help insulate it more.  We found several different materials around the house that seemed like they would help insulate the cup so we cut up a foam noodle into many pieces and wrapped everything in aluminum foil. (FYI, we did do some internet research regarding these materials and their ability to insulate prior to using them so they weren’t random choices).

very high-tech indeed

very high-tech indeed

Once we had everything in place inside of the box, we wrapped the outside in a cooling bag we had.  You know those bags you find at the grocery store that say they can keep things frozen for 2 hours in case you can’t go directly home from the grocery store?  Yeah, we’re geniuses (or really just grasping for straws here).  Originally, I had asked my son if he wanted to paint the outside of the box with chalkboard paint and then try to decorate it to look like an igloo of some sort (or just decorate it at all) but he was less about the decorating than finding the right materials so we just wrapped it up and called it a day.

Creativity at its finest

Creativity at its finest

We didn’t cover the lid entirely so that when the time came to pop the ice cube in, he could just push the button, insert the ice cube and then shut the lid again, hopefully keeping the cold air inside longer.

our tricky trap door

our tricky trap door

Yeah, we are clearly headed down the path toward the next big invention with our high tech ways.

His ‘ice house’ kept 2 ice cubes from melting for 3 hours.  Not too shabby considering that we didn’t freeze it beforehand or stick an ice pack in it that morning or turn in a tiny, decorated styrofoam cooler like some other kids did (sidenote – I guess my son’s original pitch to turn in a cooler wasn’t that far removed from the ideas of other people in his class, but doesn’t it kind of defeat the purpose of the experiment if you are just going to hand in a cooler or something already frozen?  seriously, come on!)

Anyhow, after  our my original freak-out about how we were going to handle this experiment together, we ended up having fun creating it and I think it worked pretty well.  Of course, now the box is back home and has been disassembled so that it can serve as a container for other things, so it has been retired from its freezer status.  Talk about multi-functional!

Now, I am just praying that the next school project comes directly from PINTEREST!!! 🙂

The Life Timeline Of An Almost 6-Year-Old

This week, my daughter received an assignment asking her to create a timeline of her life, with one event or particular memory from each year.  I’ll admit that my first thought was, “great, here’s another project that I’m going to end up doing most of the work for and fighting with her over how involved she has to be.” (This thought stems from the fact that my son also has a project due next week that is proving to be a lot more complicated than it should be and he has been less than enthusiastic thus far – hoping that changes over the weekend).

However, to her credit, she was actually very excited to have me assist her as she took charge in selecting the right pictures from our stash and coming up with a unique way to present them.  THANK GOD!  The paper example sent home showed the pictures side by side, with the year and a short description underneath.  Luckily, both my daughter and I thought that layout was kind of boring (though at this point, I wouldn’t have argued if she happened to love the ease of doing it that way).  So, we started brainstorming ways in which we could lay out the pictures and somehow connect them creatively.

Our first thought was to make it like a road map, but since the paper provided for the project wasn’t that big and we had 7 pictures to incorporate into the timeline, we had to nix that idea.  Then my daughter suggested drawing a vine from picture to picture, on which she would obviously draw flowers (they are learning about plants in science and she can’t get enough of flowers).  I thought this was great because it could represent how, much like a vine, she continued to grow and thrive with each year.  Naturally, since she is 5, she didn’t get that aspect of it, but I found it to be genius (plus she could actively do most of the work herself and she was excited about it!).

So, we ordered reprints of the pictures she had selected for each year and had daddy pick them up from the store so we could get started.  We cut a few down to size so that she had room to draw and attached them with scrapbooking stickers.  I wrote the year and the description so that they wouldn’t take up much room and then she went to town decorating the vines and adding a few other elements of nature wherever she could.


baby to big girl (again, sorry for the poor picture quality – still working on getting camera fixed)

In case you can’t tell from the picture, here’s the events she picked for each year:

*2007 – I was born!

*2008 – My first cousin was born.

*2009 – I loved Cinderella (she was seriously obsessed with Cinderella when she was 2).

*2010 – I became a BIG sister.

*2011 – I was a dancing queen (actually more like fairy princess from the recital pic, but she also loves Mamma Mia, so we went with Dancing Queen).

*2012 – I graduated from Pre-School with my friend, who is currently also in her kindergarten class.

*2013 – I am a soccer star (at least from the shot I got of her kicking the ball).

I must admit that this project had me tearing up a little bit.  I am with my kids ALL OF THE TIME so sometimes I don’t realize how much they are growing right before my eyes. These pictures definitely made me look back and remember how tiny she was and how she seems so grown these days (sometimes a little too grown).

After my initial reaction of horror and dread at the thought of having to do another school project, I quickly changed my tune and really enjoyed the time spent together working with her on this project and that night, when she was finished, we went upstairs and snuggled together until she fell asleep.  My little baby girl is no longer a baby, but I’m glad to know that she still needs her mommy and that we can still have fun together like we always have, even if now some of the fun comes while working on a school project!

Semi-Homemade Lorax Birthday

As promised, here’s what we came up with as party favors for the “Lorax” party – please keep in mind that I waited until 2 weeks before the party to really think about this and I live in a small city that never has anything that I want or need for birthday party purposes.  I actually think we did pretty good coming up with stuff thanks to the internet, even if the goodies weren’t perfect or exactly what I envisioned 🙂

Lorax mustache silly straws

I printed these mustaches from this great website.  It was so easy to use, even for a pretty technologically-challenged person such as myself!  They have other Lorax-themed printables and links to pages with more as well, if you are thinking of having a Lorax party in the future and you have more than 30 minutes to plan it!

Bar-ba-loot trail mix

Having watched the movie approximately 3 billion times with my youngest son (who, sadly, can actually quote parts of the movie – amazing for a kid who can barely talk), I know the little bears in the movie are called Bar-ba-loots and I know that they love to eat marshmallows.  Now, others less knowledgeable of all things Lorax-related probably don’t, but since I needed something easy to use as another gift that was still kid-appropriate, I made a mixture of chocolate teddy grahams and mini marshmallows and called it Bar-ba-loot trail mix.  Yeah.  I am a genius (or so I thought until I was searching for one more idea and saw that some other creative mom apparently thought of it first – but since I didn’t technically steal her idea, I’m still going to go with my “I’m such a creative genius” thought).

Dr. Seuss-ish fuzzy socks

The last thing we gave was a pair of fuzzy socks that reminded me of something from a Dr. Seuss book.  They were also fuzzy like the “thneed” from the book and since I couldn’t actually reproduce a truffula tree or a thneed, we handed out these socks and called them thneeds because I thought it was clever.  Probably not that clever in retrospect, but I knew that these could also come in handy in case anyone forgot their socks for the bouncy houses.  That’s the mom brain doing double-duty and trying to be fun and yet, still practical.  Now, they weren’t the most well-made socks, but they were so cute that I couldn’t pass them up and all of the older kids got toe socks so that made them more whimsical (or psychotic) like a Dr. Seuss party favorshould be.  (Sidenote: my older son thought they were gloves at first because he had never seen toe socks before, so he wore them on his hands.  Awesome.)

When it came time to figure out what to do for the cake, I quickly realized that there was not much I could do as far as the Lorax theme.  Nobody had Lorax cakes!  Again, here’s a kid that likes something off the normal “kid” path.  (I do love that my kids are somewhat original in their party theme choices because I like them to be unique in this very cookie cutter world, but it wouldn’t hurt to pick something normal for once so I can just order a regular cake from the grocery store and call it a day!)

I wanted to try to make truffula tree cake pops like Bakerella did, but at the last second, I chickened out because I didn’t want to try and then fail and get stressed out (which is what usually happens when I attempt to “bake” things).  So, I decided to buy the orange funfetti cake mix and frosting that is currently available because of Halloween and just make regular cupcakes with printable toppers (also found on the aforementioned great website).

Lorax Cupcake Toppers

These are the example cupcakes. Ours were neither iced that beautifully, nor were the toppers so perfectly round. That’s what makes ours “unique”.

I realized when I went to print the toppers that I didn’t have any card stock left so I ended up just using regular paper and attempting to cut matching circles out of the sticky foam that I had left over from our recent wheel of fortune projects.  That made them, um, special (code for slightly funky, yet colorful).  Yeah.  And, I let my older kids ice the cupcakes themselves because they wanted to “help”.  This also added to the funky element but at least I could blame that part on them!

not a great picture of the special cupcakes so you can’t see the funkiness up close, but they were still tasty and that’s worth something, I guess

So, there you have it.  Not my proudest moment in party favors or cupcakes, but they seemed to work and I didn’t have to stress out about them too much!  Always a plus! 🙂

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”
― Dr. SeussThe Lorax

Homemade Halloween Costume Attempt – Part I

This year, my kids thought it would be fun to make their costumes (meaning they thought it would be fun for me to make their costumes). At first they wanted to coordinate by being a washing machine, dryer and basket of laundry (obviously the baby gets no real say in his costume so he is doomed to suffer along with the ideas of big brother and sister…at least for one more year).  But, when they saw the following picture of a brother and sister Wheel of Fortune team, it was a no-brainer as to what the final costume choice would be:

wheel of fortune

That’s right; they’re going as Pat Sajak and Vanna White.  Well, the parents of these kids are obviously WAY more talented than I am at homemade projects and I couldn’t quite figure out how they made everything so wearable so I sat the kids down and we came up with some alternative ways to create similar looks.  (Fancy dress and suit are no issue but we definitely need the wheel and the board to really be able to identify my crazy kids’ costumes).

I found a plastic cake decorating wheel at Walmart – this was key because it is light weight and it already spins so I don’t have to worry about that part.  Sigh of relief.  We found some sticky foam at Michaels, useful for decorating the wheel wedges.  Sticky foam is twice the price of regular foam sheets, but it is SOOOO much easier to arrange than trying to make foam stick to double-sided tape and then the wheel too.  My laziness (and the fact that I had a coupon) steered me directly toward the sticky foam and I am convinced that it was the greatest purchase of my life.

Lots of color choices for our wedges

I sat down and hand sketched a few sizes of wedges until we found one that allowed us to have an even number of wedges fit on the wheel shape.  As I have said before, I cannot draw nor can I actually cut a straight line to save my life so some of the wedges are slightly askew, but I’m going to ask you to look past that.

the finished wheel base

As this wheel was on the smaller side (as is my son), the wedges are also a little smaller so we had some issues figuring out what to use to complete the decorating.  I wasn’t going to go out and buy packs and packs of letters and numbers because the main point of homemade costumes is saving money, right?  So, we mixed and matched from my stash of scrapbooking things and I think it turned out to be fairly acceptable.

It’s not too bad, right?

Naturally, I did my best to make sure you could tell that this is homemade and not professional by making a few things crooked and by using a white crayon to write “bankrupt” because I didn’t have a white out pen.  I didn’t want anyone to get intimidated by my mad skills! In any event, this actually looks amazing considering that I did most of this while my little one was desperately trying to ruin my work help with everything.   Now we just have to add the spinning arrow and figure out how to attach the whole thing to the suit a la Flavor Flav’s clock so that his hands are still free to receive candy. (I wish I could figure out the hidden straps from our inspiration costumes, but I’m really quite tired and unimaginative, not to mention unskilled – feel free to give me any ideas if you have them!)

We recently moved on to constructing a puzzle board out of a large sheet of green foam which, at the last-minute, my daughter decided needed to be cut like the big board instead of just going with the rectangle shape.  Again, I need to remind you that I cannot cut straight lines, especially with an almost 2-year-old attempting to grab the scissors from me and slice my throat every 3 minutes.  Please don’t judge because my daughter hasn’t recognized that this isn’t perfect and she is VERY tiny so using plastic of any sort would probably have been too heavy.

yeah, I missed the top of the green board thanks to her new shape cutting scheme, but I think it might still work for trick or treating

We plan on just punching some holes in this bad boy and sticking some string through it so she can wear it around her neck while only slightly covering her “beautiful” dress.  (I am letting her wear a dress that was given to her by her older cousin because she has been begging me to wear it for a year, even though it is 2 sizes too big and completely inappropriate for every day use thus far – but for Halloween fanciness purposes, it is perfect). She is more excited about the dress than the letter board.  Go figure.

Everything is still a work in progress, but the fact that I have the main parts done before October 30th is an accomplishment in itself.  And, for the record, my toddler will be going as a Wheel of Fortune contestant.  Partly because the kids wanted him to fit in with their theme, and partly because he is not the type to enjoy any costume that involves headgear (as nearly all costumes do) or anything that he could possibly strip out of.  He will have a coordinating name tag and a shirt that says, “I’d like to buy a vowel”.  Yeah, that shows you the extent of my creativity.  Poor 3rd kid………..Stay tuned to see how it all comes together (or falls apart) as we approach Halloween!

UFO Party Favor Not Quite Out Of This World

So, my oldest child will be turning 7 tomorrow and we have a birthday party planned for next weekend.  The past few birthdays I have allowed the kids to pick out themes and I have organized games and prizes and decorations of all sorts based on their themes and the random ideas I steal borrow from Pinterest.  This year, I am just POOPED and have no time or energy to go all out so I told my sweet boy to pick a place to have this party so that all I had to do was the cake and favors!

He complied and we ended up choosing the skating rink near our house.  They provide invitations and all the other generic stuff you need for a quick cake eating/gift opening session and the kids will be free to wear themselves out skating for the rest of the time.  FANTASTIC!  Perfect choice.

I then asked him what theme he wanted for his cake and the favors and he replied, “outer space”.  Not so great.  None of the party places in our city have space-related party items other than Star Wars or Transformers (eg, the normal things that young boys his age like), nor do any of the cake places, so it was up to me to come up with something remotely close.  I wanted to make something exciting, like this cake:

cake pop planets on moon/sun cake?

but I was quickly reminded that artistic endeavors are not exactly my forte.  So, I ended up just printing an exciting cosmic picture (as chosen by the birthday boy)

ooohhh, the planets (minus Pluto so it’s up to date – but I do miss Pluto!  How is Mary’s Very Eager Mother Just Serving Us Nine Pizzas without Pluto?!)

to be turned edible and placed on the cake by our local grocery store bakery rather than try to create something myself (this was a good idea – see previous birthday posts regarding cake/cupcake disasters).  More expensive, but definitely worth it to get it checked off the list!

Then it was time to decide about the favors.  As stated before, my son is not your stereotypical about-to-be 7-year-old.  He likes educational things that most kids shun.  As a parent, I think this is great, but when looking at it from the perspective of other kids, I knew we couldn’t just get some books on space and call it a day.  So, while I did find some very reasonably priced “outer space” books,

I knew I needed to get some other usual kid crap to put with them so that the favors didn’t seem too nerdy, for lack of a better word.

I found some glow in the dark necklaces shaped like glow sticks to give the kids when they get to the party (thank God Halloween stuff is everywhere) so they will glow when the lights go out during some of the songs.  That seems kind of cosmic, right? It will also help us identify who is with our party – that’s smart safety mom coming out!

Then, I started trolling Pinterest for one more idea to go along with the books (Pinterest: once again the greatest way to make me feel inferior at everything).

One person made awesome astronaut training packs for her son:

(yeah, that wasn’t going to happen this year) and another made cute UFO treat holders out of mini pie tins:

Flying Saucer Party Favor for Outer Space themed party

(of course, those are nowhere to be found in any of the stores around us).  I talked to my son about ways to adapt those ideas and we came up with this:

Medium sized pie tins from the dollar store…

…filled with space related junk (rockets, space stickers, glow in the dark planets, milky ways, starbursts, etc.)…

…with a NASA logo glued on top (because this was definitely something NASA scientists would have come up with) – Yes, I realize that from the top this looks more like a tire rim than an UFO, oh well.

While these favors are hardly as exciting as the original ideas from Pinterest, they will also double as little frisbees so technically they are FLYING objects, and they are a little rough in design so we can call them unidentified as well.

I’m kind of just hoping the kids ignore the rough construction and enjoy the books more….we’ll see….

Make Your Own Menu!

My kids love playing restaurant.  It started when my oldest was a toddler and we got him his first pretend kitchen and the love has grown with each child.  We no longer have the pretend kitchen as we have had to make room for other things as the kids got older, but that hasn’t stopped them from pretending to have a restaurant (and trying to actually have their own restaurant when we make dinner).  The one thing that always seemed to be missing from the kitchen play was a “menu” so my kids decided to make their own.

the goal

It’s cute to see all of the little drawings on regular paper and to watch how their handwriting has matured over time, but they still weren’t satisfied.  So, while picking up a few hardware items at Home Depot the other day, we came across a paint sample leaflet.   I usually let the kids pick out 2-3 individual paint samples when we go there as a reward for behaving and they take turns creating all kinds of things out of each new color.  But, I don’t let them go crazy with the samples or get booklets and other things that we don’t need, so they were thrilled when I told them they could each take a leaflet this time for their restaurant.

perfect fold out concept!

Each book had several folded pages, so the menu could be extensive, and they were more sturdy than the usual paper I let them use so they were thrilled.  My son chose a taller leaflet while my daughter opted for a square-shaped one that included more colors.  They each created their own menus through writing the items and/or drawing a picture on each square and then my husband and I were able to “order” what we wanted.  I love that my daughter matched her food items to the colors so that it “made more sense” while my son specified each page for different types of food (drinks, entrees, desserts, etc.).  You can clearly tell how each of their brains works when they make things individually; my daughter with the “fashion styling” train of thought and my son with the more “orderly” mind, very much representative of their individual personalities.

some ideas for the menu

This “craft” was totally free, I didn’t have to help at all other than the initial trip to Home Depot and offering up an occasional food suggestion when called upon, and the kids LOVED making and playing with their new menus.  Don’t you just love it when these sorts of projects just fall right into your lap?! 🙂

Craft Wars, Compliments of My (Bored) Creative Kids

About a month ago, I started running out of ideas for things to do with my 3 children over this very long Summer.  Coincidentally, it was right about that time that I discovered the show Craft Wars on TLC.  It’s the one that’s kind of like Project Runway but with weird art projects instead of clothing design. **Here’s where I feel the need to give my obligaTORI shout out to Tori Spelling for bringing this show to life and for inspiring me to come up with new ways to incorporate the name Tori into everyday words like she does with all of her branding.  (You’re welcome for the title of your next book, Tori)**

Anyhow, the show was an instant hit with my kids and we watched several episodes while they attempted to create their own similar masterpieces from our meager stash of art supplies.  (What? You don’t have a Michael’s Craft Closet like the contestants on the show?!  Um, no, but we do have what I like to call the Michael’s Craft Bucket and it seems to do the trick.)  The problems started arising when the kids ran out of episodes to watch and started coming to me for their ‘Pop Craft’ and ‘Master Craft’ challenges.  They weren’t looking for me to say, “here’s some popsicle sticks and glue, now go make a frame, kids.”  Oh, no.  That would have been too easy.  They wanted me to make weird requests like those on the show.

I tried to indulge them with challenges such as make a toilet out of leftover wrapping paper and used gift cards or make a fully functional kitchen out of toothbrush holders and unused diapers, etc.  Luckily for me, my kids have great imaginations so they actually pretended they were able to accomplish these ridiculous artistic feats.  But, pretending only goes so far so when they finally asked me to let them make something real, they decided they should create some DIY office supplies for their Grandma’s new office.  Each child could have the same tools, but could choose their own specific supplies and their personal methods of decoration.  Much to my relief, they liked the idea.  So, we headed to the store and purchased some basic office supplies and took them home to see what embellishments we could find in our Michael’s Craft Bucket.

My daughter decided her theme would be SPARKLES because obviously nothing says, “I’m a professional” like sparkly office supplies.  She chose a tape dispenser, a calculator, highlighters, and a large painted clothes pin that could be used to hold a stack of papers together.  My son went down a more practical route and decided that he would use paperclips and scrapbook paper to create his supplies.  He chose a mousepad, binder clips, a pencil can and post-it notes.  We fired up our glue guns and we were ready.

My daughter and I kicked things off by hot gluing “jewels” around the items she chose (except for the highlighters, which we painted gold with garnet glitter on top to add our signature Seminole flair).  NOTE TO SELF: next time forget the glue gun and just get some glue dots so that no one, namely mom, gets burnt in the process.

Bejeweling is coming back

While I was busy burning myselfcreating jeweled masterpieces with my daughter, my son was creating paper clip chains to decorate the cup and an unused acrylic frame which he turned into a post-it holder.  (I have to hand it to him, he had an inventive way of incorporating his paper clips into the design while still having some leftovers to use as they were intended – too bad I’m still awful with a glue gun so there were definite visible glue strings; the judges would not be pleased).

Notice the intricate glue string detail around the paperclip post-it holder which I wisely decided to hide with “watery” background paper

A few burns later, “we” moved on to making tiny paper rolls to insert into our plain pens, followed by decoupaging similar papers onto the binders and mousepad.  I use the word “we” loosely here because the older kids eventually became deserters of our craft war, leaving my 21-month-old as my closest lieutenant.  I know it is hard to believe, but an almost 2-year-old is not the ideal soldier in times of war.

it doesn’t look like much, but just try to envision me fighting with my 21-month old about where exactly the glue is supposed to go (hint, not in the mouth or hair or on the tv or the couch…you get the picture)

So, as Commanding General of my troops, I pulled out the biggest weapon in my arsenal: chalkboard paint and some wooden letters we could turn into initial-style paperweights.  This was all it took to coerce my children into returning to battle.

the initials of my kids, chalkboard style (notice how they cleverly tested the chalk for Grandma to make sure it worked)

Not everything turned out quite as planned that day, and the kids did abandon me momentarily, leaving me to use my toes to attempt to encourage my toddler to go to sleep on the couch instead of eating glue while I finished on one foot, but all in all, we had fun playing out our version of Craft Wars.  It kept us busy for an entire day and I think Grandma enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  If only Tori Spelling could see us now!  I wonder which crafter she would choose?

My First Little Feature :)

As the Olympic Games are currently upon us, I decided that a previous post I had written about the “Olympic” events that I created as a way to keep my kids busy during the Summer would be a perfect article to submit as my first writing effort for USMomsToday!  And, they must have liked it because today it was the featured article! 🙂

Please check out the article if you are interested in organizing your own “Olympics” out of basic household items! USA!  USA!  USA!

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