Small Hands in the Big World

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Split Second

Even though it’s early, I wake up happy when I hear the thumpity-thumps of my kids’ feet coming down the hall to hop into bed for snuggles and morning greetings. They’re both wide awake but Sara scrunches her eyes closed and insists “want more leeping” between smiles and “Mammaaaaaaah” sighs. William wiggles away in his earnest attempt to fall back asleep but never does so he quickly switches gears to “Mama, it’s tickle time!” and the fun begins.
Last week our morning love-fest took a turn. William hopped out of bed to say hello to Daddy who was showering after returning from his daily morning run (yes, true early-riser Rob is going to laugh about my “early” comment). Anyhow, after William said hi to Dad, he spun himself around in an uncontrolled twist to return to the bed and ran smack into the edge of our dresser. About a half inch of his eyebrow was split open…clearly not an injury we could fix with a SpongeBob band-aid and a kiss.
Having decided to forego Urgent Care or the Emergency Room (the bleeding stopped quickly, William was calm and had no signs of concussion, and the consulting nurse assured me that it wouldn’t make a difference in treatment to wait a bit), our little man toughed it out and waited a little over an hour for an appointment at our pediatric clinic.
Three stitches, some tears (his and mine), four blown-up latex glove balloons, and five stickers later, we were on our way. I knew he was fine when he started quizzing me about acquiring the appropriate treat for his troubles. Pin It

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Super Boy's 5th Birthday

When William said he wanted to invite all of his preschool and neighborhood friends to his birthday party, I figured no problem.  How often do 95% of guests RSVP Yes? Well… apparently often because our guest list quickly grew to 26 kids!
Dressing up is one of his favorite pastimes and he requested a Superhero party so we decided that costumes would be the activity (decorating capes, belts, wrist cuffs and masks) and the party favors all in one.

Capes:  I found a polyester blend that was inexpensive, silky and flowing (but not too slippery), came in bright colors, and didn’t fray at the edges. No sewing required! Using an existing store bought cape, I made a pattern from newspaper. Then, with multiple folds and tolerance of some ragged edges, was able to cut four capes out at a time. Securing them in the front proved more challenging (snaps or little hooks work great but there is too much stitching involved, sticky Velcro won’t stay stuck, a glue gun would secure string but it might also create a rough surface against kids’ necks…. Hmmm. Finally, I remembered that snaps can be “installed” if you have the right tools and the Dritz Snap-A-Plier did the trick!)

Masks:  Stiffened felt is a godsend! All I did was make a little pattern then start folding and cutting. I was originally going to sew elastic on each one but when the headcount exceeded 25, I had to think of something easier. The same tool I used for installing snaps also punches holes in fabric so I could tie elastic cord on each side.
Superhero Cuffs:  Stick-on Velcro is my friend. I used rolls of 100% acetate firm ribbon, cut strips on a diagonal, and then used that sticky Velcro to make them stay put.

Belts:  Much to my surprise, the scraps left behind from the cape-cutting were just right for tie-on belts!

At the party, sticky felt (another good friend of mine) shapes gave the kids all kinds of ways to decorate their super-outfits however they liked! Stars, butterflies, smiley faces, and peace symbols were available pre-cut and I cut lightning bolts out myself from sheets of the sticky felt.
Big pictures of the Joker and the Riddler provided the perfect villans for "Blast the Bad Guy!"

We offered tattoos and face painting but the favorite activity was “Blast the Bad Guy!” The big refrigerator box we’ve been playing with for months became a target for bean bags thrown by super-kids. I had a couple coloring book pages enlarged then glued them to the cardboard and cut around them so they’d fall down when hit by a bean bag. The kids loved it and they got creative about shooting stomp rockets into it as well.  Stomp rocket play got a little crazy but as I look up, I keep telling myself, the bright green rocket sitting up on the skylight is proof that the party was a hit!
My Mom's dog (appropriately named Happy) was given lots of love at the party. The face painting almost turned to body painting but we managed to put it away before anyone got beyond their arms.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Celebration Season

‘Tis the season for celebrations around here. Sara’s birthday was last month, next was Easter, then Mother’s Day (lovely by the way, thank you sweet family), William’s birthday is next week and Father’s Day is just around the corner….and that’s not even mentioning the birthdays of our extended family members!  Thankfully, a busy atmosphere suits me this time of year. Even though we’ve had a soggy spring, the longer days, chirping birds, and green sprouting every which way bring a welcome burst of energy.
Sara’s only request for her 3rd birthday was a Zoo cake—I made one last year too so perhaps she has decided it’s an essential piece of the annual celebration.  Using melted chocolate and stick pretzels I built “fences” for little animal figurines, Oreo thin crisps provided the path, and I used blue and green frosting for water and trees. (Our favorite fluffy and delicious frosting recipe comes from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World, a little book I recommend wholeheartedly.) M&Ms made a lovely trim around the edge and I also stuck a couple onto the tigers’ paws so it looked like they were playing with balls (Sara insisted those tigers were all hers).

Mom's Little Helpers

Happy, Beautiful Birthday Girl!
We have fallen into a routine of first having a small quiet family affair and saving the wild child frenzy for a few days later (ideal for our combination of personalities around here and the kids love the extended festivities) so Sara's kid-party was later in the week. After finding some charming and affordable finger puppets at IKEA, a theme started coming together.  The enormous refrigerator box that has been a rocket ship, restaurant, hideout, and countless other things over the past couple months officially became a puppet theater and I put on a short silly show for the kids. When I finished, the kids were clamoring to put on shows of their own. Their creative brains stayed focused on this for a long time.

For goodie bags, we made a little theater to go with their finger puppets. First we cut a "stage" hole in poster board then folded it in two places. Then my inventive artist Mother came up with the perfect finishing touch: a background made from a simple scene painted on two small squares of watercolor paper then taped on in a triangular shape. This construction created a wonderful slot for kids to put their finger puppets in and put on a little show of their own at home!
William’s 5th birthday is around the corner and he requested a Superhero party with all of his preschool buddies (20 kids plus many siblings, GULP). Inspired by some brilliant blogging Mommies, (thank you Creative Kismet and icandy ladies), I am in the process of making capes, masks, belts, and superhero wrist bands for everyone….but unlike the Mommies who have conquered this theme, I do not sew… hmmmmm, this could be interesting. Please stay tuned.
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Spring Getaway to Arizona

How many kids are lucky enough to have a happy, healthy Great Grandparent still living? We’re very fortunate that William and Sara are among that privileged bunch. And up until just a few months ago, they had both Great Grandma and Great Grandpa (he would have been 97 this month, just a day before William’s 5th birthday) and thankfully, we enjoyed several nice visits before he passed away. Dear Great Grandma looks better than ever and the kids were so happy to spend several hours with her on the first day we arrived and on our last day before heading home.

In between those visits, we headed to Tucson and stayed at the JW Marriott Starr Pass for the first time. It was magnificent! Tucked into the desert hills beside Tucson Mountain Park is this gorgeous, sprawling adobe compound that was built only 5 years ago. There was a wonderful blend of luxury and family-friendliness. We didn’t have to go far for great food (there are several restaurants on-site and we love not having to drive anywhere to eat dinner) or entertainment (the pools are fantastic). Water fountains that shot up from the ground and moved periodically were the kids’ favorite but we also loved the lazy river which wasn’t so lazy with kids on our laps in inner tubes, doing many laps of chasing each other.

Sara running alongside the lazy river while William and Dad float along

Single or double inner tubes for floating around the lazy river
We also loved that the Marriott was so close to the Saguaro National Park West so we could get an early start to do some exploring before the sun chased us indoors. William was especially eager to earn a Saguaro National Park Junior Ranger badge to add to his growing collection (he has ones from Olympic and North Cascades National Parks already). Before kids, I had never heard of this Junior Ranger program and I’m actually the child of a National Park Service Chief Ranger (darn it, Dad—I would have liked one of those badges myself)! Anyhow, if you aren’t familiar with it, this fun, educational program is absolutely one of the best things around. Kids are given a workbook and asked to complete several nature activities (possibly identifying tracks, going on a scavenger hunt, or writing a haiku). William took his tasks very seriously and stuck with it even after bumping his leg right into a prickly pear! When they’re done, a park ranger reviews their work then asks them to raise their right hand and repeat this pledge:

“I, (fill in name), am proud to be a National Park Service Junior Ranger. I promise to appreciate, respect, and protect all national parks. I also promise to continue learning about the landscape, plants, animals and history of these special places. I will share what I learn with my friends and family.”

How cool is that?! Here is a list of participating parks.

William getting a little help from Bob Cat. Busy Sara helping some birds take flight.

Reciting their pledge with Ranger Donna. When they finished, she made an announcement over the intercom to introduce their newest Junior Rangers. The kids were delighted.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

Hauling car seats, babies and luggage across the airport only to head toward tiny seats at the back of a cramped airplane is hardly an upbeat start to a vacation…. That said, we just returned from a trip to Arizona and it seemed like many of those usual obstacles didn’t exist this time around. Sure, it still took a lot to get organized and nobody likes to transport those awkward car seats anywhere BUT, now that the kids are old enough to really communicate, understand the steps along the way, and even help a bit, air travel has gotten much easier! In fact, their curiosity and sense of wonderment made many of those typically mundane steps entertaining and, dare I say, fun!
Excited observations like “I see Christmas lights!” and “Look, the moon!” chirped from the back seat during our 4:30am drive to the airport. Like little scientists, we observed the changes in the sky as the sun rose and commented on the colors—they were mesmerized. The shuttle bus from the parking lot to the airport provided similar thrills but that was before they even remembered all the elevator buttons, escalators, and the subway ride to our gate. You’d never know it was so early by looking at them, they were on full alert. Even the security checkpoint got them excited and they were so proud of themselves for following instructions and getting it right. As we boarded the plane, the adventure continued as the amazingly friendly flight attendant invited the kids to say hello to the pilot.

While he talked to them for several minutes, I mentioned to that flight attendant how I remembered getting little wings every time I flew as a child. Well, guess what—they still have those (a plastic version with sticker instead of a pin but still, how cool)! She said nobody ever asks any more but was happy to give them to the kids. Thank you, Alaska Airlines!
Seating was three by three on each side of the plane and because we’ve had bad experiences with our long-legged boy kicking the seat in front of him, hubby Rob had the idea of getting pairs of seats in front of one another.  Brilliant! Not only did it fix the kicking problem, it kept the sibling rivalry at bay, and gave each of us some nice one-on-one time. I’d like to say that we didn’t have to resort to electronics to keep the kids happy and busy but William got to watch a DVD and I let Sara play with my phone for a while. As much as I’d like to be an unplugged Momma, there is a time and a place, and I have to say, this was a good one.  However, on the flight home, our batteries ran out and the kids were totally fine with that. Besides doodling with markers and a sketch book, Sticky Mosaic crowns were a huge hit. Normally I wouldn’t get very excited about an art project with such little room for creativity (numbered spaces are laid out for specific colored squares and jewels) but it turned out to be a good exercise in following a key, provided great fine motor practice and the pieces were remarkably easy to keep contained for travel.  
Best family vacation yet!

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