Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I MADE It. With Wood. And Metal. And Paint. And Brawn.

 Our builders painted every room in our house the same color. No problem. They also painted the ceilings the same color as the walls. Problem. It makes painting any room much more daunting, because painting ceilings is a HUUUUUUUGE PAAAAAAAAAIN. I contemplate room re-vamps, and then I get a headache and eat a s'more instead. We've lived in our house for eight years though, and I've got the itch. Or I'm nesting (even though we aren't having any more babies). Or something. Anyway, I re-did the kids' bathroom.

Unlike professional home bloggers who are able to take on projects and go (dodge)balls to the wall and get it all done in a couple of days, I have to be honest and tell you that this took me a while to complete. I painted the ceiling clear back when I re-did the downstairs powder room. It stayed that way - white ceiling, tan walls - for weeks and weeks, while I put the J-bird's birthday party together and manned (womanned?) a St. Patrick's Day party and a children's choir performance for church. Then, I started doing the cutting-in along the ceiling and trim with the glorious emerald green color I picked, and that took several days, because I had to do it while Miss V napped each day. Ever try painting a room - or just having an open can of paint - around an almost-three-year-old maniac? Let me save you the trouble. Don't. Anyway, the weekend arrived, and James took the kids all day so I could finish all the painting. He offered repeatedly to help me, but I actually enjoy painting (walls). I turn on podcasts of "This American Life" or something and get in a groove. I just needed someone to make sure the kids didn't burn the house down. Once the painting was done, I could get to work on all the OTHER stuff I wanted to do to the room.

 Backing up a little.
 When the J-bird was little, I got some frog stuff, and it kind of became a de facto froggy themed bathroom.

 I added a crazy shower curtain at some point.

And we replaced the counter top with this beautiful business a few years ago, when we did our kitchen. So, when I started planning this revision, I had visions of a jungle mural, or maybe leaf silhouettes painted on the wall. I even bought lighter green paint, in addition to the emerald shade. But then I got to going with the woodwork, and I ended up forgoing that. I'm so glad I did.

 I've been seeing planked walls around the internet, and I thought I'd give it a go with less of a cottage vibe, and more of a jungle-y thing.

I bought some of the less expensive pine paneling at Lowe's that fits together. They are not supposed to cut it for you anymore, but I don't have a truck, and a very, very nice employee took my three eight foot bundles to the back and cut them down for me anyway. I still had to trim them to the right length at home, but at least I could get them in my car. I trimmed them all down, beat them up with the claw end of my hammer (because I like things to look old, especially when I buy the cheap wood and know it's not going to look like perfection anyway), then stained them. I actually did all this on my front lawn, because I'm classy like that, but I had to drag everything in to my garage to dry, because it looked like it might rain. The next day, I varnished the boards with an outdoor, all weather varnish. These boards are going on the wall behind a toilet, and I have a little boy. I'll let you sort that one out.

 On the third day, I nailed all the boards up by hand. The first several went up really easy, and I got very cocky. Line up, level, nail. Line up, level, nail. Easy. Pride goeth before the FALL. I got down by the toilet and began to cuss. This is not uncommon, due to the aforementioned need for all weather varnish, but this was different. I'll spare you the details (and the swear words). It all came out right in the end, and I love how it came out. Better than I envisioned, and I love it. I was so happy, I made myself a s'more. Just one.

 I also made a little window treatment. I used two of the leftover paneling boards and some other scraps, carved leaves with my Dremel Stylus, stained it, and hung it. It hides the top of the blinds, and I love it as well. Exactly what I pictured.

 The frog at the bottom is actually a toothbrush holder, but it's too small for my kids' toothbrushes, so it holds the cord for the blinds, so the baby will quit yanking it.

 Miss V has a lot of little hair things that needed a home. I mean, we HAVE a home for most of them, but they are overflowing said home, so. At the Goodwill, I found this little shelf.

 I sanded it down and carved some leaves on it. Then I stained it.


 I removed the towel bar behind the door and replaced it with these very cool elephant hooks. They are hung at about the same height that the towel bar was. The kids can reach it to hang their towels, but they are much more useable than the bar. Plus, they are way cool.

There are other little touches here and there, but that's the gist of it. I'm very glad I opted to skip the mural. I painted murals in my kids' rooms, and there's the downstairs powder room. I don't want to over-mural my house. I think that this bathroom is perfect, just as it is, and I adore it. It came out exactly as I'd hoped.

And now, to clean the rest of my house, which has fallen into shambles as I have polished this one room to perfection. Isn't that always the way?

Somebody make me a s'more...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Refresher Course

 The J-bird took swimming lessons last Summer and in the Fall, but Winter has been pretty busy with one thing and another, so we haven't had time to get into the regular swimming classes. I didn't want him to forget everything he'd learned though, so I scheduled him for a few pick-up lessons with our favorite swimming instructor, Alyssa.
 It took a bit, but he's gotten his groove back.

I got Miss V a few lessons as well. Since she's about to turn 3 (!!), she'll be old enough for the beginner class that starts in April. Unfortunately, Alyssa doesn't teach that one anymore, but Miss V loves the water so much, that I think she'll be ok.

 She tried very hard during this lesson to persuade Alyssa that she didn't need to put her eyes in the water and blow bubbles again. Alyssa was unconvinced.

Miss V was QUITE proud of herself when she accomplished the mighty feat. Yay for Alyssa!

I loved swimming when I was a child, and it's so fun to see my kids in the water, slowly, but surely learning what to do. They're both so proud of each new skill, and even the cautious J-bird is able to shake off setbacks like water up the nose or not being able to find the side of the pool right away. They aren't Olympians or anything, but they're finding confidence in the water, and I love that.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

This One Entertains Herself

Miss V still takes a nap most days. I think a rest time in the middle of the day is important - for the kids AND for me. The J-bird takes a little LEGO time, or he reads some comic books or something in his room for a while. Miss V and I rock for a bit in our chair, and then I tuck her in and hope she'll doze. She's almost three years old, so she fights sleeping some of the time, but she almost always ends up napping at least a little. And when she wakes up, rested and refreshed, she does this.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dear Tooth Fairy, Please Do Not Be Alarmed...

The J-bird has a loose tooth. I've been expecting it for a while. Most of his friends have already lost at least one tooth, if not more than one, but his have stubbornly (surprise, surprise) held onto their little terrritories in his mouth. I don't really mind. I feel as though I worked just about as hard as he did to GROW those suckers, so I'm not in a huge hurry to see them go. I told him several months ago that he might start feeling a tooth or two getting wiggly and that it would be no big deal - exciting, in fact. It'd mean his grown up teeth were coming in, and I explained the whole Tooth Fairy thing. True to form, he was completely. freaked. out. Just not having it at ALL. I may have mentioned that the J-bird is not fond of new things. Because of that, it's probably best that his friends have blazed the enamel brick road. He's had plenty of time to see what a minor/cool thing it is, and now that it's his turn, he's finding it more annoying than terrifying to have a wiggly tooth.

I was going to make a really cute, angelic, little tooth shaped pillow to hold the soon-to-be liberated tooth. I envisioned a stitched on smile and pink cheeks. The J-bird had something else in mind though. He wanted something blue, green and orange. Something....not so angelic. So he stood next to me as I scrolled through Pinterest, and then he emphatically pointed out what he wanted. He repeatedly gave me very specific directions - polite, but specific. He even asked me if he should draw it for me. I declined. And in the end, it's his deal.

So that's what I made. It's pretty much a direct copy, only I didn't use buttons, and I made the eyes different sizes with some decorative stitching here and there. The part with the teeth is actually a pocket, and that's where the tooth-for-coin exchange takes place. It's felt, rather than cotton, stuffed with a little poly-fil, and I just hand stitched it. It is oh-so-J-bird, and he loooooooves it. Now, we just have to wait for the tooth to fall out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


 This cupboard was the deepest shame of my kitchen.

Really. It was so bad. I was in a mood to face it though, so I flung open the doors and told the children to take everything out. After the cupboard was empty, I had the kids sort everything by round, square-or-rectangle, or "weird". Then, we put lids on the boxes we were keeping, recycled the boxes with no lids, decided what to donate, and put everything else back in to the cabinet.

So much better.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just Perfect

I've been gripped, lately with a fervent, passionate pursuit of perfection. I'm not sure if it's because things are about to change, with the J-bird preparing to start REAL SCHOOL (he'll be transitioning into a Montessori classroom soon. More on that later.), or what, but I've shifted into overdrive. I have trouble sleeping (that isn't new), so I sit up making to-do lists for the next day. Long, detailed to-do lists. And then, the next morning, I start checking off the items on my list, and I don't stop until each item has a little check mark next to it. I'm getting SO MUCH DONE. It's a blessing and a curse though, because when all I see is what needs doing, I can't let myself stop.

And I have to remember, amidst all the list-checking, that there are two precious, small people who need me, and who are intently watching me. I include them on a large amount of household chores (at age-appropriate levels). I think it's good for them, even if it makes everything take twice as long to do, and they usually enjoy it. I never push for THEM to be perfect, just to be clear. I don't expect that :). They also learn a lot about doing for others when they join me as I volunteer for things, and they learn patience and how to entertain themselves when they have to wait while I attend to other business.

Everyone goes through phases, and this is just one of mine. I will find balance,  and there will be socks on the floor and a few dishes in the sink (not many though. I hate that). I'll put my feet up in the evening and go to bed at a decent hour and stop volunteering for every single thing that needs doing. It's nice to know how much I CAN accomplish though, when I set my mind to it. Yes, indeedy. It sure is. Maybe striving for perfection isn't all bad.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Robot Partay

 Last year, when the J-bird turned 5, we invited half the world to his party, so this year we went a little smaller. He wanted a robot theme, so I happily obliged, and, like a complete psycho, I hand-made pretty much everything. I cherry-picked ideas from Pinterest, of course, cruised the wonderful internet for drawings of robots that rang m'chimes, and dreamed up idears I just liked. Then, I made several detailed to-do lists and got to work. The invitations went out a couple weeks ago, thus committing me fully to a date and time, and away we went. Here's how it went:

 I made a template of a gear, then traced and cut out a bunch of them from gray paper and brightly colored card stock. Those went together to make a "Welcome Robots" banner for the front hallway.

 More gears went onto more card stock for sitting squares. Each of these had a different picture drawn on it. That became important later, when we played "Musical Robot Walk". I don't have a laminator, so I covered these with packing tape and then taped them to the floor. (All these pictures are easier to see if you click on them. Sorry 'bout that.)

 I bought inexpensive paper gift bags and then drew a different robot for each guest's goody bag. The bags had little toy robots, some stickers, and a little build-a-robot sticker book. We also added some things as the party went along.

 I strategically hid my check list behind the bags. I like lists. Pathologically. :)

The J-bird's favorite decoration was on the trash can. When he saw this, he said, "Even the TRASH CAN is a robot?! I like your style, Mom!"

 Most of the clever names for the food came from posts on Pinterest. I'll post some links at the bottom of the page, so you can see how the real party masters do it. We had "Processors" (almond butter and homemade jam on sandwich thins), "Energy Cells" (fruit) "Computer Chips" (tortilla chips) "Nuts and Bolts" (Chex mix) "Marshmallow Bytes" (marshmallows with sprinkles on sticks), "Browser Cookies" (chocolate chip cookies), and "Machine Oil" (juice boxes). I went a little overboard making labels. Somewhere mid-week I stood back, took a long look at myself, and shook my head.

 We also had cupcakes, of course. They were vanilla with chocolate spilled in - supposed to look like a fuel spill. They had vanilla cream frosting with silver sprinkles, and I got the cutest kit with wrappers and picks from Amazon. Be proud of me. I bought something pre-made. It was probably the cutest thing at the party. ;) The cupcake STAND, however, I made. I wrapped different sized boxes in silver paper and glued them together, then made a robot face on the top one. I just couldn't leave it alone. It's a sickness. Cupcakes on a plain ol' plate? PERISH THE THOUGHT!

The first thing the kids did when they arrived was pick a square to sit on, and then start coloring a t-shirt. I had outlined robots on the shirts earlier in the week, using fabric paint, and the robot on each kid's shirt corresponded with the robot on their goody bag (which made it easier to remember which shirt went home with which kid later on). They used fabric markers to color the shirts, and then we threw them in the dryer to heat set the color. This activity was a humungous hit.

 I made robots out of soup cans to hold the markers. Good thing I eat a lot of soup.

Our second activity was ROBOT BINGO! Five in a row got you a piece of candy, and we played until everybody won once.

Once bingo had been accomplished, we played some Musical Robot Walk. It's like a mix between Musical Chairs and a cake walk (because I love Musical Chairs, but it nearly always leads to bodily injury, and ain't nobody got time for that). Everyone did their best robot dance moves and walked around the circle while the music played, and when the music stopped, each player had to find a square to stand on. I picked a card from my stack of cards with corresponding pictures, and whoever was standing on that square got to pick a piece of candy to put in their goody bag. Again, we played until everybody won once.

Our last game was "Build A Bot" - basically "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" with robot pieces. I traced a robot shape onto a piece of foam core board with a silver pen, and then I traced and cut out various robot pieces from poster board. Add tape and a blindfold, and you've got a winner.


After all those games, the kids were ready to eat.

 The birthday boy was properly feted.

 And gifted.

And it was a gorgeous day, so we finished up by playing outside with bubbles and sidewalk chalk and lots and lots of running and wiggling and screaming and laughing.

 And my six year old boy had a wonderful, special day with his wonderful, special friends.

Thanks so much to everyone who showed up, and to my friends Amy and Justin, who took turns manning (and womanning) my camera when I had to set it down. Their photography skills are far superior to mine. In fact, you can check out Justin's work here, and hire him for something, if you're in the market.  Links to some of the robot parties I poached from are here, here, and here. Some of what I did was adapted, and some of the thing I did were direct copies, so credit goes to the folks who did it first. If you see something here YOU like, feel free to copy :)

Thank you also, of course, to my James, who helped me by entertaining the kids so I could work on the party preparations this week, who also manned the camera, who ran around doing all the little things during the party, and who always helps me in every way as my complete partner. I wouldn't want to be on a team challenge with anyone else, dude. Thanks for making and helping me shape this little whippersnapper for the last six years.

I'd also like to thank the Academy.  Nope...that's a different speech....

Alright, y'all. It's been a big week. I'm heading to bed for a few blissful hours of unconsciousness before Daylight Savings tomorrow. Peace out!