Creativity is Messy

I long for a life with everything neatly sorted into the equivalent of a 3D spreadsheet. I long for it in the same way, and with the same futility, as I long for stick-straight hair, a surprise growth spurt, and smaller boobs.

Creativity is messy. I find it in piles of seemingly unrelated objects, sorted with a system that makes sense. To me.

Living in a small house has its challenges, but at least we have two bathrooms. Well, sort of– I’m currently storing boxes of tile and antique light fixtures in one shower. The same shower that needs to be re-tiled, but not the same shower I have already re-tiled.  I’ve spent the past few months collecting tile (white subway tile, from thrift stores) for that project. Spending $8 instead of $60? Yes, please. JB didn’t realize that there was a relationship between the tile collection and the shower project, which irritated me at first. Then I had to wonder what it meant that he waited 3 months and 6 boxes of tile before commenting.

But I needed to finish the hall bath before destroying the master bath. So I did. Except for a linen shelf. But there was this metal locker…

Thrift shopping is hoarding.  Estate sales/thrift purchases require immediate commitment. We need storage, like shelves. But I want to use the scrap wood in the basement first. And I sure don’t want to pay more money for fake wood. I just don’t.

We find the perfect couch, huge, old, non-toxic foam (bonus!), cheap ($550), and in pristine condition. Like that couch spent the first 40 years of its life under a plastic slipcover. But it need end tables. Midcentury modern, two-tier end tables are all the rage, but I cannot force myself to pay $200 for items that I ignored in my grandmother’s house. Plus, all the rage means everyone will have them. Meh.

Then I find two project tables. What was once the bottom of an antique vanity that some other creative person hobbled together into a column of drawers. They’ll need to be stripped and sanded, stained, and sealed. It needs matching legs. And a top. But they are the perfect size, and…different, because they’ve never been tables at all. Which means I’ll never see these tables in anyone else’s house. Ever.

The metal locker. The slightly rusty, in need of paint, locker. The 6 foot tall, single column locker, with individual doors/cubbies. The one that just so happens to fit in the linen shelf space of the hall bathroom. The one that, when I am done with it, will solve the 2 months of bath towels piled on my bedroom floor problem.

Speaking of bedrooms, I painted the master, got a new mattress, and have, within the past few days, accepted that “antique wrought iron” and “queen” don’t exist in this dimension. So I spend an evening whining about my headboards with a mostly-tolerant, mildy-irritated husband, because I am an “eclectic” and he’s a “traditional”. Somehow we both agree on a concept being used in tiny house construction (not a loft). But it needs to be built first. Which is another project.

And I want to sew, having acquired a fabric-store’s worth of vintage fabric. But the crap from my master bedroom is in piles in my studio, so I can’t get to the sewing machine.  Don’t talk to me about writing. I’m freezing on a stone patio, because the one activity where clutter and creativity cannot coexist is during sentence writing.

The November birthdays. Elliot, my youngest, who turned 6 today. The boy that continues to delight us with the full-speed joy and enthusiasm he’s shown since his unintentional, un-medicated birth. And Zach, whose birthday is not for another “6 of the longest days in the world”. The boy who will turn 8, and can always be counted on announcing to anyone that will listen how “mom, we could MAKE that.” The kid that was mad because I went to the Reuse Store without him.

My life? It’s messy and cluttered and busy and stressful.  And also, creative and inspiring and energizing and interesting.

The Easiest Way to Store Lego Bricks

Flashback Friday!  This one is from way back in August 2012– and is still the method in use today.

Yesterday I promised to show all of you how to sort and store Lego bricks. This Lego storage system met my two largest needs:

      1) cheap,

 

    2) easily understood by the 34, 5.5, and 3.5 year old male people.

There. You’re welcome.

How to Repurpose a Crib into a Mid-Century Modern Sofa

Small Sofa? Settee?  Large Chair?  I’m going with sofa.  This post will show you how to repurpose a crib into a mid-century inspired sofa.  Taking trash to treasure ranks in my Top 10 of all favorite things.

How to Repurpose a Crib into a Mid-Century Modern Sofa

Not even an expensive, convertible crib.  Nope, nothing but the least-expensive-but-still-safe sleep prison for my precious darlings.

Wait, maybe not safe since it was one of the drop-side cribs of death, so it had be repurposed or get tossed in the garbage.   The crib spent some time repurposed as a lego table– but the boys prefer the floor.  How else does one plant lego brick landmines to maim the parents?  JB suggested we just throw the thing away as he watched me haul it back down to the basement.

One does not simply throw things away.

When I realized that my basement fort couldn’t be a permanent office and moved myself back upstairs, I justified the expense of my time with a low $50 materials budget.   Our basement overflows with items waiting for new life, and I’m trying really hard to live the life of an anti-over-consumer.

I ended up spending $80 total– for a gallon of paint, two new brushes, and $30 bucks a yard upholstery fabric (then 50% off!) and some extra foam.  To date, I’ve spent a max of $7 a yard, it took me several days to work up the nerve to even cut the fabric!

Here’s the crib in the so-clean, pre-Zach nursery.  Those hand-painted sea creatures would eventually cause night terrors in my babies— MOM WIN!  I still miss my giant goldfish (which you can see if you click the link).

Sea Creatures

My office needed a chair, but not an overflowing monstrosity like the one above. Something comfy, but practical.   Something, um, free.

I’ve seen many crib-into-bench ideas and since the mattress also sat in my basement, I decked it out at a little couch.

It looked like a crib and crib mattresses aren’t particularly comfortable to sit on when one weighs more than a baby.

I poked around the internet, looking at couches, choosing a few mid-century modern couch designs as inspiration.  Nice clean lines– furniture whose footprint matches its function, nary a superfluous poofy cushion in sight.

IMG_6512_large

Inspiration Couch

I’m going to tell you the truth- if you’ve ever cut a piece of wood with a power tool; sewn a semi-straight line; and used a stapler– this project is doable.

Step 1:  Shape the arms of your sofa.

Our crib had those high, arched sides.  No good.  I used a jig saw and cut down at an angle.  I like easy, so the highest point of my incline meets the back of the sofa.

Step 1  Cut the round sides

Step 2:  Let’s Get Stable!

You weigh more than a baby; is the crib sturdy enough?  You can see the original bottom of the crib under the cedar bunkie boards (yup, had those in the basement; I got them for $5 at a thrift store 3 years ago).  If you don’t have random bunkie boards, cut 2 x 4s to length, and screw them into the frame.

2 Step 2 Bunkie boards

Glue and nail a thin piece of wood to stabilize the wobbly spikes to stabilize your arms.   This also gives the flat, mid-century modern form when you start to shape with the foam.

2 Step 2 Assemble

Step 3: Foam strip, a lot of glue, and even more tape.

3 Step 3 Lots of Glue and Tape and Foam

Sidebar:  Some 13ish years ago, adventurous friends helped me take a reciprocating saw to an over-stuffed couch, which is when we all learned that even pre-made furniture is largely shaped with cardboard.

Step 4: Cardboard for shape. Cardboard for stability. Cardboard 4 life.

Your goal here is to give a solid foundation to shape the cushions.  I had a few heavy duty shipping boxes (see above about not throwing things away).

4 Step 4 Add Cardboard for Stability

Step 5:  Padding

Turtles? What the what?  So. My mom made custom crib bumpers for the still-gestating first grandbaby.  I tied them so tight– no choking!– that they had to be sliced off with a very sharp knife, rendering them useless as crib bumpers. For years they’ve hung out in my scrap fabric project box just waiting…  to be put back together with the crib.  I used the bumpers to fill in the padding on the sofas arms.  Reunited, and it feels so good.

5 Step 5 Building up the cushions for the sides

Step 6:  Assemble the first layer of padding. 

Padding inserted, everything’s nailed or glued down.  Incidentally, this is about when I headed downstairs to look for a heavy-duty stapler.  That stapler is my new BFF.  Get a good stapler.  Tack nails and tape cannot replace a good stapler.   If they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire*…

6 Step 6 Building up the Arms and Back

*Dude! Officespace!

Step 7:  Estimate your fabric needs by making a pattern.

Large sheets make great slipcover/upholstery pattern pieces.  Unless, like me, you choose a fitted sheet. You can’t fold fitted sheets into neat squares because they are the devil’s work. Therefore, if you can’t fold it into a square, they will not make nice rectangles. But it did help me estimate my yardage (a king sized sheet is about 3 yards; I bought 4).

I ended up asking my first grader* about vertices and then drew out the geometry.  At the most basic, most furniture is nothing more than a simple quadrilateral.

*I’m only sort of kidding.

7 Step 7 Estimate Fabric Yardage and Measure your Shapes

Step 8:  A little more cushion, please.

Cardboard and thin foam isn’t very snuggly.  I intended to make a padded cushion with extra lower back support using scrap “mom, that’s too babyish for us” fabric and some of the 5 pound box of fiberfill I got on sale– 2 years ago.  THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER HAD I JUST BOUGHT FOAM*. Unless you are trying to prove something to yourself, just buy the foam.

*That deserved a yell.  I overstuffed the back cushion only to really notice the lopsidedness when I dry-fitted the upholstery fabric.  I’m not a perfectionist, but it was bad even by my standards and I had to rip out some of my precious staples to adjust the cushion stuffing because sofa Spanx doesn’t exist.  Lumpy is neither mid-century modern, nor comfy. When I reupholster other furniture, I will just buy the foam.

8 Step 8 Create a Back Cushion from Scrap Fabric

Step 9:  Embrace flexibility.

Remember how fitted sheets can’t become rectangles?  This is when old patterns come in handy.  Speaking of– have I mentioned that I can’t sew by following a pattern?  I can take stuff apart and make new things from it; I can look at an object and determine how to make the fabric piece together, but patterns– with their darts and seam allowances– make me all sorts of weepy.

9 Step 9 Old Patterns and Present Wrapping

Step 10: Foam on top

Take coupon and buy 2 yards of foam to smooth out the pillow.  Hey– they DO make soda Spanx! I stapled this stuff on top of my scrap-fabric cushion.

10 Step 10 Add Foam

Step 11:   Attachment

Staples– too many is not enough; so many 3/8 inch staples in this bad boy.  The fabric on the arms took the longest.  It’s in two pieces– the inner trapezium* meets the flat top of the outer trapezium.

*Seriously, that one I did learn from 1st grade common core math.

11 Step 11 Add Upholstry Fabric

Step 12:  Remember

You’ll say to yourself, naw– I’ve pulled the fabric too tight (you didn’t), and I’ve got enough staples (you don’t).

As for the edges? I found it helpful to think about neatly wrapping a present (not something I do much of– the neat part).  It’s the same sort of concept when wrapping a sofa.

12 Step 12 Wrapping the upholstery fabric

Step 13:  Details

I found button making thingys (that is the scientific name for them– my brain is spent after trapezium) on clearance for 97 cents.  I find absurd joy in making buttons.  I could make buttons ALL DAY LONG.

13 Clearance make your own buttons

Step 14:  Get a mascot and “borrow” your oldest child’s sonic screwdriver.

I haven’t put the knob back on the TARDIS door yet, which means you can’t get in without a flat-edged tool.  It’s funny until you actually lock yourself in there without a screwdriver one evening.

A few weeks ago I locked myself in on purpose as the boys left for karate.

Elliot: “Daaa–aaaddd! Mom locked herself in her TARDIS again!”

Zach: “Mom’s just gone to another dimension. She’ll be back by breakfast.”

Which would be hilarious enough, right?  Until several hours later, when this happened:

Elliot on his way to bed whispers through the door: “Breakfast is at 7, Mom. Don’t be late.”

Pure childhood memory gold, right?  Yes– except Elliot, at 5, has a grasp on reality somewhere in between  loosey and goosey.  A few days after my dimension field trip, Grumpy Cat (aka Tartar Sauce, aka TARDIS Sauce) showed up on my sewing table. Why?  BECAUSE I NEEDED A COMPANION.  Hard not to love that kid; he thinks JUST LIKE ME.

14 Repurposed Crib into mid-century inspired sofa

 

I even went and linked up at other DIY places this time.  Like My Repurposed Life and DIY Showoff

 

 

DIY Intergalactic Planetary TARDIS Office

DIY Intergalactic Planetary TARDIS Office

“I’m going to paint my office door to look like the TARDIS,” I said to my husband the other night.

“MMMhmmm,  ” he muttered never lifting his eyes away from his precious, the college basketball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus notified he offered no argument which therefore implies consent (I also watch Law and Order).

The door– like all of its matching friends– pays homage to the late Sixties obsession with brown paneling.  So ugly.

Ugly Brown Door

I used scrap printer paper to hold the places for the beveled panels.

Create Beveling on a Flat Door

Using dark paint in one corner creates the illusion of beveling on a flat surface.  I will use this trick again.

Windows with Shiny White Paper

 

I used shiny laminate paper for the top panels since I had, you know, accidentally painted them blue instead of leaving them white.

I had about two hours before needing to pick up my oldest from school.  The hall looked so bare around my TARDIS. It needed…something.   A painting of a planet and its moon*, yes.

TARDIS needs spaceIntergalactic, planetary

*No I’m not giving you a step by step of this part.  I didn’t use spray paint, but otherwise followed the steps in the aforementioned link.   

I could have stopped, but the planet and moon looked lonely.  It needed something more. Something intergalactic for the planetary.  Like a nebula!

TARDIS Planet, Moon, and a Nebula

Nebulae (see what I did there?  Fancy!) are really shockingly simple to paint.  I did all of this with acrylic paint and lots of blotting with paper towels.

My kids wanted to make their own outer space paintings (naturally). Here’s a pictorial on How to Make a Space Nebula in 9 Frames (the planet instructions are on that other link; no need for me to repeat her work.)

How to Make a Space Nebula in 9 Frames

Doing a crappy job with spray paint (e.g., creating the stars) proved to the most complicated part of the entire thing.

I love it. Everyone should enter their office via a TARDIS flying through a nebula toward the Planet Orangeish Thing.  And how glad am I to have Beastie Boys as my background music, finally displacing the week-long ear worm of “Everyone is Awesome”?

Here are the Before and After pictures of my DIY Intergalactic Planetary TARDIS Office.

Before and After 2 Before and After Facing Before and After Right

 

One more of my nebula.  Look at how pretty.

On Nebula I'm In Love

 

 

Living Room Displays: Child’s Art

 

The Case for Displaying Imperfection

The case for Displaying Imperfection in the Living Room.  Yes, even your child’s art.

Last week I enjoyed having a man-cold.  And by man-cold I mean, ermahgerd-snot-can’t-breath-is-this-sinus-cancer cold and by enjoy, I mean laid in bed trying to remove mucous from my nose with the infant snot-sucker thing.  I whined and reclined, a lot.   Which, when that other parent’s home is fine, and less fine the rest of the time. Not-sick-Elliot became independently motivated and, um, created things.  Like this Halloween ghost I found taped by the front door in my living room. 

Ghostly

Since he started the morning of October 1st with, “where are the decorations? It’s HALLOWEEN MONTH Y’ALL” I’m not surprised to find evidence of his enthusiasm.   Not surprised, and frankly quite pleased.  I like holidays, sure, but I don’t drag all of this festivity out for myself.  Nope.

Just Hanging Around

Okay, maybe a few for myself.  For example, my window eyeballs.

The Windows Have Eyes

And fine, I’m the one that taped the place mat on the bearded dragon cage.

Even the Beardies

Some of these have become tradition.  Like the milk-jug, curtain-sheer ghost that hangs by the front door.  I never intended for this to be permanent, but here you go. This isn’t really my holiday, ya know?

Curtain Ghost

I never intended to hang skeletons in the shrubbery.  Have you noticed how very little children care about adult intentions?

Yarned Yard Skeletons

 

Coloring pages decorate random spots all over my house.  Kids with access to both tape and push pins, and a mother that thinks children should see their art all over the place.

Come on– you know you like the polished pinterest (or more accurately– what Martha’s been doing for a really long time)? 


Sure, theoretically.  I mean, I like to look at other people’s pinable houses, but that level of effort (both in the doing and the maintaining) just isn’t compatible with my life. Or my parenting style.

In the way I’ve come about each Really Important Life Lesson, I first needed an epic fail.

It’s October 2011, and the boys and I are unpacking the Halloween decoration bin. When I pull out Zach’s Halloween chain from the previous year I flinch, and glance over in time to see his smile wilt.  We stand there, both staring at this orange and black construction paper chain, remembering how frustrated we had been that day. Him trying to cut and staple–for the first time– and me blisteringly impatient with the sloppiness of his scissor work, his careless stapling.

He was three (one month to four),  but he was three at the time.  Three.  And I was angry with him for not trying hard enough.  I remember snapping at him, “you’re not even trying to make it look nice!”  More importantly, I absolutely remember the look on his face.

He. Was. Three.  And I was old enough to not be that invested in the outcome of construction paper.

But there it is, every October when I pull out this chain (last year he added a small one, I’m going to repeat that this year), I’m reminded that constant criticism of children murders their creativity.  Kills their self-confidence.  Might ruin a future artist’s dream.

The artistic plane, unlike the dinner table, is an amazingly easy place to praise and support your child.  Really. Stupidly. Simple.

Unchained Melody

And this is why you will find an odd piece of what might first assume is trash accidentally stuck to the door.  Because that’s not trash at all– that, my friends, is Elliot’s reduce, reuse, recycle ghost.

Ghosts Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Always Optimistic

But when I am, it’s a delusion.

Optimism

Yeah. Um. A week before spring break in MARCH, my kids got sick and my Superhuman, Worked Retail Handling Money Drenched with Gym Sock and Cleavage Sweat did not protect me.

Then Spring Break started and we built a buggy/bike garage. I estimated it would take a day. Since the structure still lacks a door “FINISHED” is simply not true.

And it’s May.

buggy and bike garage

Then there was the onset of The Great Basement Clean Out, 2013 edition.

The Great Basement Cleanout

Why basement clean out? Book, you were writing? Two (three) reasons.

  1. the untapped potential of 1178 square feet of space that doesn’t require air conditioning.
  2. I had to sort, rearrange, toss, and clean the whole thing so I could tape off A Fort of One’s Own. Let’s just leave it at I thought I’d be done (back then I wanted walls) the week after Spring Break.
  3. it was looking a little hoarders.

It’s May and AFOO is done.  Who needs walls?

We also adopted (stole from the wilds of my mother in law’s porch) a new pet, aptly named Sir Walter TreeFroggy.   That the frog-dude rocks a color coordinated monster truck in his terrarium was all Elliot.

Monster Truckn Tree Frog

Our anti-vole glue trap caught a 5 lined skink.  He (she?) enjoyed an extra two weeks of well-loved life.

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This kid will be done with kindergarten in another week.  I can’t be the only mother that actually looks forward to the end of school?

zach

What else? Um, probably a lot, but who can remember these things? I am killing the Bonbon Ninja– I simply don’t have time to do a different blog. Really, what was I thinking?

Oh right; Optimism vs. Delusion.

 

 

 

A Fort Of One’s Own

A Fort of One’s Own, or AFOO (äf OO). That’s what I’ve done here.

Virginia Woolf wrote:

“a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

This quote rolled around in my head for a few months, since, um, winning an auction where Chuck Wendig will read a few thousand of my words and, um, critique them.

Damn Stephanie, you haven’t done that yet? Wasn’t that in, like, February? Shut it! I’m uninterested your deserved shock about my craptastic time-management skills.   Anyway, I have almost 21k words– and a complete plot outline– but if my words were dinner, right now I’m 3 and they are the green beans.

Now, back to AFOO.

Certainly, Virginia and I are women of a different age. I have control over my reproduction (today. Who knows what surprises my whack-ass state legislature plan for Wednesday).

I am not financially dependent on my mate (crap, yes I am because this stay at home mom gig pays in crayon drawings and butt wipes.  And love– don’t forget the love).

In the year 2013, unlike 1928, women aren’t harassed for their feminism, regardless of its chosen path.   Women are no longer persecuted for their sexuality, sexual identities, or expected to prevent their own rapes (2013 seemed better in my head then I wrote it all out.  Excuse me while I weep in my tequila).

Okay, skipping how amazing women have it now– sigh— and back to my point.  I type these thoughts on a keyboard and words do whatever they do inside the CPU only to be spit out on my screen.   When I hit save draft all of this gets stored…uh, somewhere interweb-like.  Probably California.

Like Woolf– who, keeping it real here, suffered from her own early-century, first-world problems, I have the opportunity and the space; the chance to write and to create.  The space changes here and there, and some variations are better than others.

But my writing wasn’t limited by a lack of space.  I have a drawer of notes scribbled on a variety of different paper-type products.  Most of my best ideas did not originate in this space of my own, but rather at stoplights, parks, or during the 14th iteration of chutes and ladders.   Never has a lack of a desk stopped me from writing.

So it wasn’t a room that I needed, but permission to abandon what my excuses; reasons for not writing.

No time.  The kids.  Distractions.  Chores.  Obligations. 

So I took my excuses; reasons and imagined what I’d tell someone complaining TO me about the same.  Sheepish, that’s my face right now.

1) No time.  Um, facebook.  Blogs.  Free ebooks that sucked before the end of the first poorly constructed sentence that I READ ANYWAY.

2) The kids.  They live here and I have a responsibility for their care.  However, they do get to watch some TV, and they are capable of bursts of self-entertainment.  Will they interrupt me at some point?  Yep, it’s what they do.  By reasoning that I could expect a future interruption I found myself goofing off instead.  See Item #1.

3) Chores.  By the light of the computer monitor, this is an easy one.  Either a) do them during the goofing off time from #2, or b) share them!  A 4-year-old’s earnest attempt at floor mopping counts as the floor being mopped. Same goes with putting away laundry, doing the dishes, cleaning up the toys.   It doesn’t stay clean, because little boys, a big boy, two dogs, a tree frog, and an ADD woman live here.   Bonus to the chores– the little ones want a bearded dragon, for which they first need money.   Not having to scrubbing someone else’s pee off the bathroom wall? That’s worth a dollar.  Them learning the importance of good aim?  Priceless.

4) Distractions.  These are an adult problem, for me it goes one step further into the clinical.  My brain takes a really long to time make it up Motivation Mountain and any interruption sends Engine #9 right off the tracks.  Beyond medication, do you know what else helps?

Discipline:  to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control.

For example, I know that opening an internet browser to debate people known to piss me off is like choosing to continue to smoke with your oxygen tank hooked up.

5) Obligations.   Meet them and move on.  Volunteer for less.  Don’t let other people guilt you into things that you don’t want to do.  Alternatively, don’t complain about the stuff you have volunteered for.  Busy is bullshit, see #1.

I did not need a room (fort) of my own to write, though the autonomy and freedom gained from cast-off curtain sheers made me absurdly happy.

Upstairs? A couch? A bedroom? Pah– I have this fort, this space that I didn’t need, but makes me feel like a unicorn farting rainbows. WITH BUTTERFLIES.

It was intended that AFOO have walls, doors– you know, room-type things.   Zach and I even discovered a kick-ass antique stained glass window at the reuse store being ignored by a pack of re-modelers in favor of vinyl.  Shudder.    But then I thought– walls, who need walls?  I ain’t got time for no walls!

I like the carved-out-for-myselfness from behind the curtain.  The Being Weird rather than buying mass produced weird.

A Fort of One's Own

The once-was-a-box-spring redone into a Mixed Media Abstract Art and Organization Center. No need to be judge-y, it’s a work in progress.

IMG_20130423_193039Mixed Media Art

Mixed Media Larger

The swelling and explosion of my heart when I re-read The Yellow Wallpaper a few weeks ago.  My silent concession to a long-ago professor who told a classroom full of 20ish year old women that they would “get it someday”.

Making silly art from it?  With craft paper that I bought a decade ago because it reminded me of the story?  Shrug, it’s whom I am.

Yellow Wallpaper

The refinished desk and credenza.

desk

credenza

Yes, I did duck tape my perimeter.  You wouldn’t have?

Fort begins

The various objects that touch my soul or delight me with their whimsy. Here are a few.

A friend welded records together for us one year.  I hung it from my house’s old television, pre-cable lines.  Get it?

Vintage Details

Don Quixote, dude.  I always run full tilt- if it ends up being at windmills, so what. Windmills are cool, man.

Don

When my office was upstairs, Elliot made me a megablock Duck statue.Last week he redesigned it.  A few days after that, I noticed he’d been reading a book:

thumbnail

I totally see it– don’t you?

The Raven

 

My space.  My choice to create an eclectic, industrially-designed hide-out from the random stuff hanging out in my basement.  Added bonus for getting rid of crap in my basement!

DSC_8821

 Or spray painting stuff from the backyard.

DSC_8971

 

You won’t find a pinned inspiration room, because I didn’t copy someone else’s style.

Furthermore, I encourage more of you to build your own semi-permanent forts. To claim some corner as only yours, a place without toys, or paperwork, obligations, or expectations.

2013: The year adults Take Back the Fort.

Before and After

Being a Mom Makes me do Weird Things

As I held the teeny-tiny toes to a fishing lure frog, my fingers gummy with super glue, I knew I had something for Andrea’s You Know you’re a Mom When link up.

Behold, the inspiration. One squishy frog that brought such joy to the youngest Small Person that I felt my cynical heart peek out from the ashed remains of my hope for humanity. Elliot is, with a select few things, very easy to please.

Elliot and Frogly (not misspelled) cavorted together in their bath. Elliot told Frogly all about the blanket house they would build together. I listened to Elliot explain the safety rules betwixt Frog and Dog.

And then…

Frogly’s puny little toes fell off. At bedtime. An over-tired 4 year old’s bedtime.

Ah, the evening trifecta arrives just in time to relight the flames.

Being a Mom

How do I know I’m a mom? Because I doctored up Frogly’s foot with super-glue, that’s how. And, as I wrestled with tape reinforcements (a cast, right?), JB checked the tackle box, finding duplicate Frogly.

We all live another day.

But wait– there’s more. Z has been rereading all of his “How to Train Your Dragon” books, in between which we’ve have long conversations about mythology, historical timelines, and evolution. When he asked, “Mom, can you…uh… make me a picture of everything important since, like, the dinosaurs?”

I assumed google was gonna hook me up. One free infographic on history from dinosaurs until now … what? No FREE INFOGRAPHIC? Cue microsoft word, insert tables, copy row, and carpal-tunnel-inducing cut and paste.

No worries– there WILL be a free infographic. Eventually.

But I did find out how to make him a viking helmet out of a t-shirt, duck tape, and some tin foil.

So. Many. Jokes.
viking

Apparently this one has heard all the jokes. He was not a fan of viking helmet good times.

unfortunate

He did put on the Toothless tail though.

toothless

Sidebar: Go back up to the picture of viking Zach. Look down and right. See where I still haven’t rehung the doors on the armoire-turned-food-pantry (from January 2012) in my kitchen? Bah-ha-ha… I love me.

Finally, the coup de grâce— the tee-pee. Now, before y’all start throwing jokes, I’d like to point out a few things.

    1) Post-photo trim work gave it a more conical shape. Look at it again, two days– MAX– before a glimpse of that thing at dusk triggered life-long ghost nightmares.
    2) Children chose and sorted the sticks. Well, one of them did; Elliot excavated a lake.
    3) Children dug the holes–in Carolina red clay.
    4) Children sawed most of the tiny side branches. Meticulously and slowly with a dull box saw.

teepee

Alright, I used the jig saw for some of the large stuff, but c’mon!

Of course, now I want to build a yurt.

I’m also linking up to Blogher’s February NaBloPoMo, because, well, I wrote a post. 😀
NaBloPoMo February 2013

Cinnamon Dough Ornaments

Cinnamon Dough Ornaments

Makes about a dozen, medium to large ornaments

Dough Ingredients

    1 cup ground cinnamon
    1 cup applesauce
    1/4 cup white school glue

Preparing the Dough

    Mix ground cinnamon applesauce and glue in a large mixing bowl
    Mix ground cinnamon with applesauce and white glue in a large mixing bowl.
    If the mixture feels too stiff, add a touch of water.
    Knead the clump together and wrap it in some plastic wrap, allowing it to sit for about an hour.

Making the Cookies

    Sprinkle some cinnamon on your prep area and roll the dough out to about 1/2″.
    Use your cookie cutters to create fun shapes in the dough; or
    Make coils of dough and sculpt your own designs such as letters and shapes.
    Be sure to punch a hole in the top of each shape with a straw or pencil.

Drying or Baking the Ornaments

    You can either let them dry naturally over a period of 3 to 5 days, or you can bake them in an oven at 200 degrees for about 2 hours (making sure you flip them halfway through).

This year’s ornaments. Yeah, I know– Martha’s job is totally safe. Hint: if the results of a for-child craft look perfect, it was likely not made by children. But the stars are mine, wink.

This year we added names in the hopes of preventing a repeat of “I don’t know which candy cane is yours” argument.

Cinnamon Dough Ornaments

For better or worst, we make these ornaments (or the salt dough version) every year. Handprints. Shapes. It’s fun, it’s easy*.

*Yes, it IS easy. With one child, calm children, or adults.

I realized today that the Making of the Ornament marks a milestone stored in the oldest Small Person’s head: CHRISTMAS IS ALMOST HERE.

So yes, they want to make the ornaments. They love to see the previous year’s ornaments when we decorate the tree.

However, the ACT of ornament-making with twitchy little boys sort of feels like I’m being punk’d by Santa.

On the bright side, tasting the dough isn’t a temptation (to me!) because of the glue. Also, the cinnamon in the oven smelled more festive than dirty dog feet and little boy farts.

Oh, did I neglect to mention that a contest of competing farts was the Funniest.Thing.Ever?

Boys, they pee all over the floor and fart all over your house. And we love them anyway.

Not a Snowball’s Chance

When you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt as temperatures hover in the sixties and it’s the middle of December… snow seems unlikely.

But this is North Carolina and I’m out of milk so it will probably snow tomorrow.

Elliot goes to a co-op preschool and I was in charge of the Winter Party. It was Joel and I– which turned out to be really special for E, since he’s never had the two of us without his brother. Poor Second Born child.

I always planned for the stuff around the party– crafts, games, favors– to be very simple. Why? Because these are 3 and 4 year olds and they have the attention span of hyperactive gnats.

Then I saw a friend’s pictures of felt snowballs. FELT SNOWBALLS! Have you ever heard of such a wonderful thing?

I hadn’t, but of course it exists! Michelle, author at Rust & Sunshine not only made some, she also provides a free pattern so you can do it, too.

*No, really– she did all the work already– I’m not typing out my own version of her instructions, because that would be, 1) a copyright violation, and 2) redundant.

First, I made two snowballs and handed them off to my Small People. If there is a way to cause either body or property damages with felt, it’s gonna be my kids.

After they remained both injury and argument free, I added balled up socks to their stash and started sewing the class snowballs. Party favors, dontcha know? Two balls per kid– because one snowball per kid is lame– for a total of 24 felt snowballs.

The greatest time investment–as it always is with sewing– was in the cutting. The sewing part only took 3-4 minutes per ball.

The 30 minutes of sustained fun had by the hyperactive gnats? Worth it!

Felt Snowball Fight copy