We’ve got GERMIES

Joey and I have been sick since Friday – he’s got strep throat for sure and some very swollen tonsils.  As for me, I have a bit of a sore throat but it’s not all that bad and tons of aches and pains going through my body – I feel a bit like I’ve been run over by a truck.  What I find so amazing is that although Joey is really sick he hasn’t lost any of his energy and in fact seems more wired than ever.  We’ve both been on antibiotics since Saturday morning and so we’re no longer contagious but even so, I kept him home with me since Friday and he has definitely got cabin fever.  So today I let him break free of his time stuck at home and he and Larry have gone off to a Halloween party with our Rancho Cordova Cradles to Crayons group.  My friend JoAnna is hosting and she to has the germies as I imagine a lot of the other kids and momma’s do.  Let’s face it, it’s just that time of year and so we’re bound to catch some of the germs that are going around.

While I hate being sick it has brought some special simple pleasures into our lives.  For example to combat Joey’s boredom he and Daddy have been playing Wii games together – Lego Batman that Aunt Mary got him for his birthday and MarioKart that Crystal got him (along with the Wii) for his birthday.  I personally can’t figure out the Batman one and it makes me frustrated and then in turn I frustrate Joey because I keep getting our characters killed off.  On the other hand I love MarioKart.  It has so many different scenarios to race in and you can be one of a dozen or more characters and you get to pick your ride which I love.  I didn’t think I’d like having a Wii, and we are limiting Joey’s time on it as we want him to pursue other play activities as well, but I have to admit it’s a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying playing it with Joe.

We also broke out my craft supplies yesterday and did some stamping on fabric bags that I had on hand and then we also decorated some foam butterflies with puffy paint and glitter glue.  I’m hoping to make a mobile of our fine creative butterflies.  I love crafting with Joey and I love it even more when Larry does it with us.  He gets so into it and is as proud as Joey of the work he creates.  Joey loves doing crafts of any kind, though he goes through them at the speed of light – globbing on glitter glue and adding additional glitter to really make it sparkle.  That’s one of the things I love about his preschool, they literally do a craft each day that he’s there.

Anyway, I’m grateful for the sick times as it makes us slow down and not try to fit a gazillion things into our schedule.  It lets us bond even more as a family and do creative things together to pass the time.  I guess you could say there is a silver lining to being sick after all.

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Clay Pot Toy Soldiers

I’m getting so excited for the holidays and am planning on doing all kinds of fun crafts and homemade gifts with Joey this year.  Here is one of my favorites that I think will make a great present for a teacher, grandparent, etc.

Christmas Clay Decorations Toy Soldier

I do not know who originally created them but have seen them around at craft festivals and hardware stores each holiday season. I thought to myself, why pay big bucks when I can make one myself and have a memory in the making with Joey at the same time. I think the little ones are cute (18 inches in height), and easily transported for gift giving, but the big ones – 6 ft. tall are spectacular. Haven’t decided if we’ll stay small for Joey’s sake or go BIG, or maybe both. (If you want to go BIG, you’ll need to use 16 inch pots in place of the 5 inch ones I’ve outlined in the materials list below.)  You can get super creative and paint your facial expressions on them, or decorate them real buttons and hats you have lying around the house or find at thrift stores.

Your Checklist of materials
5 five-inch flower pots
3 cans of spray paint (red, black and blue)
Blue painters tape
Masking paper
2 wood tongue depressors (Alternative: Paint stir sticks)
Masonry adhesive, hot glue gun or Velcro connections
Gold ribbon
Sticky-back felt or foam in red, black, white
Brass ring
Gold-colored plastic “cabochons” (or regular buttons)
Gold-colored beads and gold sequins (Alternative: Gold-colored braid or rope)
Plastic eyes
Pipe cleaner (black or red)
Red-colored yarn tassel

You will need five 5-inch flower pots and three cans of spray paint – red, black and blue. The rest is, in large part, up to you.
If you don’t like the toy soldiers you can easily convert the project to an angel, Santa, an elf or whatever else suits your fancy.

Step 1) the clay pots should be spray painted. Two pots are painted blue, one black, one red and one is left unpainted or painted white depending on what color you’d like the face to be.

Step 2) Add a black stripe to the rim of the unpainted pot and to one of the blue pots. Use blue painters tape and masking paper to prevent paint from getting onto any surface other than the rim.

Step 3) Two wood tongue depressors should be spray painted red and set aside for use later. If tongue depressors aren’t available, trimmed paint stir sticks will do the trick.

Permanent assembly can be achieved by using a masonry adhesive or a hot glue gun but if you’re like me and you have to take storage into consideration, use Velcro connections instead. This will allow partial disassembly and the placing of some of the pots inside one another.

Step 4) Assembly begins by placing the blue pot with the black rim, rim-side down, on the work surface. Next, connect the bases of the two blue pots, making sure to align them. You’ve now created black shoes and blue trousers. Next, attach the rim of the red pot to the rim of the blue pot. Then, connect the base of the unpainted pot to the base of the red pot. Finally, add the black pot to the top, rim down.

Step 5) The next step is to add red stripes to the trousers, a white stripe and a black collar to the shirt, a black belt where the trousers and shirt meet, and a gold hatband to the hat.

You’ll use gold ribbon for the hat band, sticky-back felt for the trouser and shirt stripes and regular felt for the collar and belt.
A simple brass ring is used for a belt buckle and, although regular buttons can be used, for a more formal look I’m planning on using a package of gold-colored plastic cabochons that can be found in the bead section at your local Michael’s store.  If I decide to make some snowman to then I’ll definitely use an assortment of colored buttons.

For the hat decoration I’m planning on using gold-colored braid since it will be easier to maneuver with a little guy helping me out but for those of you who have more patience and older children you can use twenty or so small, gold-colored beads strung together with a gold sequin at each end to decorate the hat portion of your soldiers.

Step 6) The arms are made from the tongue depressors (paint sticks) that were painted red earlier in the project.  Now, it’s time to add white gloves. Each consists of a pair of opposing pieces made from sticky-back felt or foam. Red cuffs can be  added in the same manner. A sequin is used at each cuff for a button. And a short piece of gold ribbon is wrapped around the top of the arm to simulate epaulets. Now attach the arms to the body.

Step 7) The face can be painted. In my case since I’m planning on doing this with my four year old who has limited artistic abilities as well as patience I’m planning on using plastic googly eyes and a felt mouth. A short piece of black or red pipe cleaner rolled into a ball can be used for the nose or a small pom pom.

Step 8) Finally, a store-bought red-colored yarn tassel should be added to the top of the hat. Or you can purchase the yarn and make your own tassel.

And that’s it, your very own clay pot soldier to grace your porch or window sill, to give as a gift, to make a merry memory.  Have fun and get creative.

Where did October Go?

I love October, absolutely everything about it with the exception that it always seems to go be too darn fast.  We start the month off in celebration of Larry’s birth on October 8th.  This year we had a combined celebration with him and Kelli whose birthday is the 29th of September.  We went bowling as a family – Chuck & Kelli, Mary & Elsa, Grammi and Pop Pop, and Larry, Joey and I.  It was a lot of fun.  Joey and Elsa had their own lane with a special ramp that helped them roll their balls and together they played a total of 7 games.  I think Joey probably played about five games worth all by himself.  He was a little bowling devil barely taking time to breath. The grown ups shared two lanes, boys on one and girls on the other.  We cheered one another on, made side bets, and basically just had a great time.  Grammi had a little slip and fall and hurt her back, or should I say bottom, but it is healing thankfully with the passing of time.

The following week we celebrated Joey turning 4.  On his actually birthday, the 14th, we just had our immediate family with a few gifts and a cupcake and then the following day had his party with all the extended family and his friends.  This year we did a monstrous party theme with the kids dressing up, and some of us grown ups as well.  Crystal and Jeff came decked out as clowns and were so amazing that some of my mom friends thought I’d hired them which really gave me a giggle since this years party was on a pretty tight budget.  We had hot dogs and chips, with lemonade, water and tea for beverage choices, followed by cupcakes and ice cream.  Their was a monster pinata and goodie bags for all the kids that included a scary book, spider rings, monster pop ups, a take and make magnetic craft, etc.  The kids really seemed to like getting a present of their own to open while Joey was opening the many gifts that he received.

The Tuesday following his birthday Joey went on his first school field trip.  We went to Davis Ranch with another RM preschool and had a hay ride and picnic.  The kids got to go out into the fields and pick their own pumpkins and then we cut one open so they could see inside and try to guess how many seeds it had.  It was a really fun outing and a different perspective for him to see from when we usually just drop by to pick up veggies.

Last weekend we took a trip out to Fog Willow Pumpkin Farm.  I let two of Joey’s buddies, Trevor and Garrett, spend the night on Friday so that they could go with us out to the farm on Saturday.  The boys had so much fun petting the various farm animals and making animal sounds at them.  They got to practice roping steers – well hay bales with plastic steer heads on them, each got to pick out a pumpkin of their own, and ran wild up and down the pyramid made of hay bales.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch under the big oak trees and then Larry and the boys took a very bumpy hay ride… so glad I was wise enough to pass on that one.

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And today, Joey had his first official class picture taken at preschool.  I can’t wait to see them.  And as if that wasn’t special enough, Joey got selected to bring home the classroom mascot – Bubba Bear home with us until we return on Thursday.  He was beyond excited.  Already they’ve had lunch together, practiced tracing letters, and later are planning on making cookies for the party that is scheduled for Thursday.  Plus somewhere in there he wants to take Bubba Bear on a bicycle ride but first I have to figure out how to secure him safely to Joey’s bike and come up with a “helmet” for safety.

So as you can see it’s been a busy month, so busy that we’ve hardly had time to appreciate the wonders of Fall.  The leaves cascading down to create a carpet of color on the ground, the smell of wood smoke in the air, the chill that is nipping at us as we rush about warning us to put away our shorts and dig out our sweaters.  I wish this month could be twice as long just so I wouldn’t miss a moment of it.

Are you investing in what matters most? Not always.

I’ve realized of late that sometimes we need to take inventory of our time. Are we investing it in the things that matter most?  Take for example this past weekend, yesterday to be specific.  We spent the afternoon bowling with my hubby’s family in celebration of Kelli and Larry’s birthdays.  It was so low-key, relaxing and fun.  I had no doubt when I left there that I’d invested my time wisely.

Joey and Elsa getting “revved” up

It was so joyful to watch Elsa and Joey taking turns on their “bumper” lane.  And I was so proud to see Joey helping his cousin with the bowling ball, setting it up for her on the ramp so that she could easily push it down.  After all their balls were 6 lbs. and that’s pretty heavy for four-year olds.  They played a whopping 7 games of frames together, exchanging high fives whether they knocked down one pin or seven.  Rejoicing in each triumph.

On the grown up lanes we were each doing our best to out bowl one another, making side bets for babysitting and just generally having an awesome time playing together.  Yes, PLAYING together.  How often is it that adults get together for the sole purpose of having a grown up version of a childs playdate?  I would have to say, not often enough.

Am I paying the price for it today?  Sure, but every ache and pain was so worth it as I felt like I got to connect with each and every person there.  Not to mention that I won two nights of free babysitting, of which I plan to redeem in the very near future.

It makes me question am I investing the rest of my time as wisely?  I’d have to say on the whole that I haven’t been.  I want to enrich my friendships, build a stronger family foundation, create creative opportunities for myself and Joey, and find adventure on a weekly if not daily basis.  Is it possible?  I think so, if I don’t throw away time on inconsequential matters.

Sounds so simple doesn’t it and yet it feels so hard.  Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective and I’ve been looking at it the wrong way.  Take laundry for example, or house work – both things that I find no joy in and consider hard labor and yet if I changed that perspective and thought what joy it is to have a clean house, an open door policy for family and friends to drop by because I know my home is suitable for guests, how lovely would that be?  And if my clothes were laundered and put away how much would that simplify my life to not have to search out outfits for Joey and myself that actually worked together, not to mention not tripping over dogs that have burrowed into the clothes piles waiting to be laundered.  It really is all about perspective and investing my time wisely to achieve the outcomes I most desire.

How are you investing your time?  Are you getting a return on your investment?  I’m going to work towards building my time bank balance so that it overflows with joy and simple pleasures.

Hobbies, what are those?

I was updating my profile on the mom’s group that I run and I realized that when it asked me what my hobbies are this was how I had to answer.

“This is so shocking, but other than reading, I don’t really have any hobbies any longer. I’m going to have to work on changing that. I used to love writing, photography, camping, cooking, etc. but it all seems to have gone by the wayside as my energy level has gone down and my parenting duties/activities keep increasing. Guess I just set my 2012 New Years resolution 🙂 ”

How sad is that? I think it’s very sad. I have all these great ideas that I want to try running around in my mind but never seem to take action on them, or make time for them. I want to try my hand at throwing pottery again and I don’t mean dishes at Larry either, and painting just for the fun of it. It’s been forever since I took any photo’s of abstract stuff just for fits and giggles. My girlfriend Cheryl and I used to take one day road trips for the sole purpose of snapping pictures and it has to have been at least 5 years or more since the last time we did something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I do do many crafty things each week, BUT they are with Joey and so they are always things suited to his age level. I enjoy them, but I just want something for me – does that make me selfish? I don’t think so, not really deep down where I know we all need these kinds of things to nourish our souls and make us better parents, partners, friends and yet a part of me must think it’s selfish and that I’m not worthy of taking time out just for me.

So as I said in my response on my profile I’m going to make changing that status my resolution for 2012. Stay tuned to find out what fun things I get into and what adventures they lead me on.