One Small Step

We had a vacation!  We went down to visit my parents in RI, and my sister and her girlfriend drove all the way here from Colorado.  It was lots of fun, and perhaps more importantly almost felt normal.  Mandy and Bailey were extra careful because they know I’m so paranoid, so they quarantined for 14 days before they came up and then to be extra cautious took a covid test the day before they left.  One bonus to them driving over half the country was that they were able to bring their dogs!

Julius had a blast!  He was so happy to see everyone, hang out on the lake, pretend to be a dog, etc.  On the last night of the trip (extended by one day because at the last minute I found out I didn’t have to work on Sunday) he said to me, pensively “we are not leaving today, but we are leaving tomorrow”.  I told him that yes we were leaving tomorrow and asked how that made him feel.  He reflected, “I think it makes me feel sad.”  It was just about the cutest, most heartbreaking thing ever.

I’m going to have to come up with some great activities over the coming weeks, to get him through.  Apparently RI got added to the do not travel list in MA, after we’d already been there for a while, so now we have to quarantine for 14 days.  And to think that I was just starting to get over my covid induced anxiety…

One of the better activities I came up with for Julius recently was a color your own face mask.  I had all these fabric markers left over from Erin’s baby shower, and I just quickly made Julius a plain white mask.  Julius colored on it, and I think it looks pretty great.  It did take some encouragement to get him to use anything but a brown marker though.

Kid’s Color-Your-Own Mask

What You’ll Need

  • Plain White Mask – pattern here
  • Scrap paper
  • Fabric markers

Insert scrap paper into your plain white mask (if your mask has a removable layer like the pattern above).

Let child color on front of mask as desired.  Launder as recommended before wearing.

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Retired!

My mom retired this year!  She’s been working as a nurse for 41 years at Women and Infants Hospital (where Julius was born, not a coincidence).  She didn’t want a big send off because of all the hardships nurses and hospital employees have been putting up with for the last several months.  Since we were all in separate states, we decided to throw her a virtual retirement party!  Below is all the silly stuff we did for her retirement “party”.

Here are the boxes I sent out!

Here were the contents for each guest!

Food

really wanted to mail everyone cake in a jar, but I could not figure out how to get it there fresh!  Instead Will and I tried many iterations of microwave mug cake – we decided on a very slightly modified version of this cake.  I mailed the dry mix packets out, and warned everyone they needed eggs, milk and butter.  Everyone liked the cake – even my nephew who had a version made with applesauce instead of eggs!

Celebration Cake Dry Mix Packets

Ingredients (for each cake)

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon decorator sprinkles

Mix ingredients together, place in individual candy bags, tied with a ribbon and the instructions below.

Cake Mix in progress

Cake Mix with Instructions!

Instructions

Use the instruction labels here, with the text below:

Celebration Mug Cake!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 large Egg Yolk
  • 1 Tbsp Milk
  • Dry ingredient packet

Place butter into 12-ounce coffee mug; microwave 30-45 seconds or until melted. Add all remaining cake ingredients; mix well with fork.

Microwave 45-60 seconds or until cake pulls away from sides and top is dry. (Do not overcook.) Cool 1 minute. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, as desired. Serve warm.

Decor

For decor – we gave party guests silly nurse caps, and little toothpick inserts for their mug cakes to make them more festive!  For my mom we also added in a “Happy Retirement” banner!

Silly Nurse Cap Party Hats

I used this tutorial to fold the hats, and it went very quickly!

Retirement Toothpicks

  • Cardstock (I used black)
  • Colored paper (I used purple)
  • Toothpicks
  • Glue Stick
  • Hot glue
  • Cricut Pattern
  1. Use cricut to cut out this pattern on cardstock.  
  2. Use cricut to cut out this pattern on paper.
  3. Remove paper and cardstock from excess paper then use glue stick to attach paper to cardstock. 
  4. Hot glue the toothpick onto the back of the “Happy Retirement” paper and while the glue is still hot, cover with a scrap piece of cardstock.  

Happy Retirement Banner

Cut letters out of colored paper using cricut.  Thread ribbon through holes in letters. 

Games

 

A party isn’t complete without games!  We did a silly “Who Knows the Retiree” game (see here if you’re interested) as well as a version of Bingo we got at a thrift store (it was actually called Bardo – and had Shakespeare trivia built in).

Retirement party in action! Note the great games (Bingo and Who knows the Retiree Best?)

Presents

We decided to give my mom a subscription to Masterclass, so she could investigate some new fun hobbies that she might want to try.  In addition we also compiled a list of ideas for what to do during her retirement.  We did this by entering items in a google spreadsheet and I then printed them all and put them into a bag.  She could then read them all at once or take them out anytime she needed a “retirement idea”.

Retirement Ideas Bag

Masterclass Card

The retiree!

 

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Reveal Time

Julius has this cute habit lately of finding things around the house and giving them big hugs and telling them he loves them.  It is really adorable and makes me so happy.  Some recent examples;  “I love you snake [maternity] pillow”, “I love you bee [humidifier]”, “I love you bug [bathtub toy]”.   The snake pillow was especially helpful because now I know what to do with that giant pillow after I have the baby!  Throw a slipcover on that thing with eyes and a tongue and -bam- it’s a snake.

I hope Julius likes his new sibling as much as he likes all these inanimate objects!  He’s been really silly – whenever I tickle his belly he shouts “stop! Be careful of the baby.”  I guess I have said that a lot.  That’s pretty much the only time he mentions any sort of baby though, unless I have to leave in the car without him.  Then he asks if I’m getting pictures taken of the baby.  Before the anatomy ultrasound I gave Julius a hug and told him I had to leave to get pictures taken of the baby in my belly.  He cried and said “don’t leave me, I need you”.  I had to explain to him that because of the virus no one could come with me, and that I definitely would have him come with me if it was allowed.  I wonder what he would have thought of the ultrasound.  I think it would have been cool for him to see it; maybe it would have made it more real for him.  Who knows though, he’s a toddler.

Speaking of the baby in my belly, after the ultrasound we sent out gender reveals for our family members.  I don’t know how, but the first time we did this for Julius it worked great and no one spoiled anything for anyone, but this last time was a near disaster.  I won’t go into details, but let me suggest that you mail any gender reveals to people staggered at the times you want them to be opened.  We did scratch off tickets last time, which some people in the older generation were a little confused about – so we decided to go with something more obvious that clearly stated the baby’s sex.  I made 10 party crackers this time around – which I thought everyone has seen in one form or another.  This didn’t go quite as flawlessly as I would have anticipated.  I think only a couple people in the group opened them like actual party crackers – and I think I know why (see below).    Either way I guess it’s good I didn’t waste a whole bunch of money on adding tiny explosive devices so they’d really crack.  Instead the entire project was made from recycled materials and things I had on hand.  I’d like to note that these are not for the feint of heart.  Unlike the scratch offs – which were quick to make, these took me many hours to complete.  This is why I was so heartbroken that the whole secret had nearly been ruined!  Also in our letters to the family we called these Sex Reveal Crackers which is the technically correct terminology, but for the sake of anyone actually finding them on my blog I call them Gender Reveal Crackers below.

Julius helped me put up our banner.

This boy is going to be a big brother!

Gender Reveal Crackers

What you’ll need (for each cracker):

  • fabric and fabric paint in gender stereotypical colors for the sex of your baby (pink for girl, blue for boy)
  • Cereal box thickness cardboard to make a stencil
  • My cricut patterns here and here
  • spouncer
  • pink and blue ribbon
  • 3 cardboard tubes (toilet paper tubes)
  • recycled paper for outside the tube
  • pink and blue paint
  • sponge
  • tissue paper – not pink or blue (again ours was recycled)
  • tape
  • hot glue

Make the banners

  1. With pinking sheers cut out 7 flags for “boy” or 8 flags for “girl”.   I made a ton of flags in equal sizes in a short amount of time by drawing lines spaced 5 inches apart, then marking 4 inch segments along the line.  On the line above I marked the direct center of the 4″ segment from below.  Then I drew a line connecting the two points, forming multiple triangle segments at once.

    form triangles of height 5, base 4.

    It is fastest to draw these all out with a yard stick, and cut them out along the lines.

    Pendants cut using pinking shears

  2. Next I created a stencil by using my Cricut to cut out the letters for “baby girl” on recycled cardboard.

    Using the cricut to make sencils

  3. I used yellow paint and a spouncer to stencil a letter from “baby girl” on each of the 8 triangles for my banner.

    Stenciling a “b” onto the pendant

    Finished stenciling for one banner.

  4. Next you’ll want to feed ribbon through your pendants to form a banner.  In my prototype I did this by using a tapestry needle, but decided this was way too time consuming.  For the other banners I simply cut two 1/2″ vertical slits into the top of each pendant at either end and fed the ribbon through there.

    This is an example of the banner threaded using a tapestry needle

  5. Continue threading until you have all the letters on the banner equally spaced.  I also had some cute little plastic pacifiers left over from favors from the shower my family threw for me pre-Julius – so I put these in the middle of the words “baby” and “girl” until they ran out.

    Finished banner

  6. Leave at least 6″ of ribbon on each side of the banner for the recipient to hang it up.

Make the wrapping paper

  1. Flatten your recycled white paper out onto a surface (it is way easier to do this in bulk).  You will need an 11″x9″ piece of paper for each tube.
  2. Take the sponge and randomly sponge a pattern of light pink paint onto the paper.  Let dry.

    Sponge paint pink in random patterns

  3. Take the sponge and randomly sponge a pattern of light blue paint onto the paper interspersed and overlapping the pink paint.  Let dry.

    Sponge paint blue over the pink in random patterns.

Assemble the reveal cracker

  1. Cut a 6″ piece of pink ribbon and a 6″ piece of blue ribbon for each cracker.  Tie one to either end of the banner.  This step is only necessary if you used an obvious gender color like pink or blue for the ribbon on the banner.  The ends of the banner from the ribbon are going to poke out of the cracker, so we don’t want to ruin the surprise before anyone opens it…

    Tie decoy ribbon to the ends of the banner.

  2. Fold banner up like an accordion and roll slightly so it will fit inside the cardboard tube.  Then wrap this gently in a single layer of tissue paper. Be sure to tuck the ends of the banner’s ribbon in a bit so only the pink and blue ribbon ends from step 1 poke out.  (This is to prevent anyone peeking in the end of the tube and seeing pink or blue pendants and ruining the surprise.)

    wrap banner gently in a single layer of tissue.

  3. Place tissue paper wrapped banner inside a tube, with pink and blue ribbon ends poking out either end.

    Make sure only blue and pink ribbon ends stick out from the tube.

  4. Center the tube on top of the wrapping paper, so tube is parallel to the 11″ long side. Glue gun the edge of wrapping paper to the tube at one end.

    Glue on the edge of the paper, next to the white tube.

  5. Place two dummy tubes on either end of the cracker tube, then roll the tubes to envelop everything in wrapping paper, then secure with another line of hot glue along the length of the paper.

    Glue the length of the paper.

  6. Pull one of the end tubes out slightly so the edge of the paper overlaps the tube about 1.75″.
  7. Holding the middle cracker tube, and the 1.75″ paper on top of the guide tube, twist in opposite directions.  This should form a nice crisp fold.

    Properly folded ends.

  8. Make sure everything is hidden inside the cracker, and tie a length of blue ribbon around the fold you just created to secure the cracker.  Remove the cardboard tube.
  9. Repeat for the other side of the cracker with pink ribbon.

    Tie folded ends with ribbon

  10. Hot glue the pink and blue ribbons sticking out of the tubes to the inside ends of the cracker, so when they pull the cracker, those come out with it.  **I think this is what confused everyone – a lot of people didn’t open these like normal crackers and instead pulled the ribbons only instead of the entire ends of the crackers.  I would recommend gluing the ribbon down flat to the cracker, not just at the ends of the ribbon so you cannot possibly lift the ribbon up to pull it out!  This would solve that problem – that’s usually how the snaps inside are glued on and no one tries to just pull those…

    Glue the ribbon to the ends of the cracker.

Finally we shipped them all off with these instructions:

If you want to find out baby #2’s sex… make a guess… then grab the ends of the cracker and pull!

Finished crackers.

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Random Recycling

We just got out of a Southwick’s Zoofari.  Julius had a lot of fun, though he told us he wanted to go back and get a closer look at the hyenas… about 45 minutes after we’d passed the hyenas.  We promised him we would go back someday and see everything up close.  For all the baby animals he said “I bet they love their mommy”.  Which was pretty adorable.  Also speaking of mommies, we were showing Julius some of the equipment for the new baby and we asked him if he remembered drinking mama’s milk,  He said “yeah”.  Then we asked if he remembered drinking milk from mama’s boobies, and he said outraged, “no, not from boobies!”  He might be a little surprised when the new baby comes.

So for a while I’ve wanted to make wrapping paper from the recycled paper I save from packaging.  I usually use the paper to make patterns, because it’s really heavyweight paper that works well for drafting.  Unfortunately, we just get too darn much of the packaging to use for just that.  We’ve also been using it for projects for Julius, but we still have too much.  I finally found another use for Will’s birthday, by making  wrapping paper using a meeple stamp from a piece of packaging foam (it was a two in one recycling project).  It worked really well.  I am definitely going to do this again with other designs and patterns.  And just maybe I’ll make some red and green meeple paper for Christmas.

Finished meeple wrapping paper on Will’s gifts! Plus bonus – reused ribbon.

DIY Recycled Stenciled Wrapping Paper

What you’ll need:

  • squishy foam or sponge (mine was from a computer we purchased)
  • chalk
  • scissors
  • tempera paint
  • recycled paper (mine was from some container store orders)
  1. Draw stamp template on foam in chalk.
  2. Cut around template using scissors. This was actually a bit tricky because my foam was so thick.  I had to take it a layer at a time and taper it down to the silhouette I wanted.
  3. Dip stamp in tempera paint, press firmly onto paper.
  4. Repeat until desired effect is reached.

    You’d never know this was recycled paper!

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Red, White & Blueberries

Well I was going to post about this last week, but I couldn’t decide between the timeliness of our birthdays and the timeliness of the fourth of July.  In lieu of fireworks (which we don’t really like anyway because they scare the dog) Will and I watched Hamilton on the fourth of July.  It was incredible and I loved seeing the original cast perform, but it wasn’t at all the same as a normal theater experience.  I like being able to choose who I’m watching on stage.  I feel like that’s part of the fun of the theater experience, that everyone has a slightly different view.

We watched the Hamilton teaser trailer and Julius really liked it and asked to watch it about 15 times until I told him that was enough.  He doesn’t know it but he loves Lin Manuel Miranda.  Julius asks to listen to the Moana soundtrack every single day from the day he first watched it months ago.  Sorry I digress.  After listening to the Hamilton trailer I tried to explain to Julius who Hamilton was, but that was too deep and convoluted.  Instead I taught him the colors of the American flag.  I am not positive he retained that information but we did lots of crafts to ingrain it in his memory.

First Julius made a “flag”.  I know you might think that this is a picture of fireworks (which would have been a good idea) but this is actually the American flag as interpreted by a toddler who really just wanted to put the entire container of glitter on the flag. Ingredients were red construction paper, white puffy paint and blue glitter.  I put a limited amount of blue glitter into a tiny plastic container with holes poked in the top so he couldn’t just pour the entire thing out in 5 seconds.  Instead it took him about 10.

Diligently sprinkling glitter on

Standing by his work of art

Next we pick some of our white hydrangeas and did a science experiment.  We used blue and red food coloring mixed with water in the first two jars.  After only a couple hours the hydrangeas started becoming tinted blue and red.  We also noticed the red food coloring appeared to be killing the first hydrangea.  Overall though the experiment worked pretty well!

Finished experiment. Red blooms are definitely drooping.

Finally I decided to make a flag dessert for Julius as a surprise.  I used whipped cream left over from my cake frosting, a piping bag and star tip and blueberries and strawberries.  Ours were a bit fancier because I decorated the plates first, but of course I didn’t take a picture of that.  Julius loved the dessert and now asks for all his fruit “with cream”.  (We don’t always indulge him of course.)

My patriotic dessert

Mid-chew

The blueberries were not from blueberry picking – which we did the next day!  Yes you read that right, we finally left our house as a family for a short period of time…  Julius was a champion and kept his mask on the entire time with no complaints.  What a good little man.  I’m so proud of my little guy.

Hope you all had a happy fourth of July weekend!

He carried his own basket and everything!

Eating the fruits of his labor

 

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Takes the Cake

Well I had a lovely birthday.  Julius (and Will) made me a card that he was very proud of.  I knew he had made me a card because the day before my birthday Julius burst into the bathroom while I was brushing my teeth and said “I’m making YOU a card!” and then about faced and ran back to the room where he was making the card.  Then on my actual birthday he was so excited to give the card to me, that he thrust the card at me and said “here is your card”.  And then he shoved some ripped up circles at me and said with extreme excitement and pride “AND BALLOONS”.  Will had Julius color on a piece of paper, and he cut balloon shapes in the front of the card, so the colored in part showed through the balloons.  Apparently Julius had refused to let Will throw the cut out scraps away and insisted on coloring and giving the “balloons” to me with the card.  He was so proud.

Julius doesn’t quite understand birthdays.  He does understand that they involve cake.  I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I made a cake for GISH and Julius kept asking if it was his birthday.  Well I made a cake for myself (because Julius would not have been convinced it was my birthday without one).  He eats cake very slowly so after I wolfed my cake down he told me “it’s my birthday!”  To which we replied that it was mama’s birthday and that’s why we were eating cake.  He looked at his plate and my plate puzzled and said “but I have cake, you don’t have cake”.  Interesting logic…

For Dada’s birthday we made a card using puffy paint!  Puffy paint was super easy to make and worked really well!  It was a bit hard for Julius to use at this age though, so I expect some more puffy paint is in my future when he gets older.  Julius told Will after we made the card “we made you a cake Dada”. Later today he was checking if the paint was dry and he told me he couldn’t wait to eat it.  That concerned me a bit, so I explained to him again that it was a pretend cake.  He didn’t seem convinced.  Maybe the real sprinkles were not a good idea.

Finished cupcake card!

Cupcake Toddler Card

What you’ll need:

  • shaving cream
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Plastic zip lock bag
  • Cardstock
  • Sprinkles or tiny beads/glitter
  • Cupcake liner
  • glue stick
  • white sticker paper (mine was scrap from some actual stickers)
  1. Fold piece of cardstock in half.  Mix equal parts shaving cream and Elmer’s glue in the zip lock bag to create white puffy paint.  Julius mixed this up by thoroughly squishing them around.  This in an of itself was a good activity.
  2. Cut cupcake liner to form a convincing isosceles-trapezoid 2-d cupcake liner shape.
  3. Have child glue trapezoid onto the bottom half of the card.
  4. Cut off a small part of the bag holding the puffy paint.  Have child squish paint above the cupcake liner as if frosting a cake.

    Concentrating very hard on his cupcake creation

  5. Have child sprinkle sprinkles, beads or glitter onto cupcake like sprinkles.
  6. Let dry 24 hours.
  7. The next day have child color the white sticker paper in color of choice for a candle.  Color a small patch orange for a flame.  Cut out a rectangle form the colored sticker paper for the candle, and a tear-drop shape on the orange part of the sticker paper for the flame

    Sticker paper post cut out from candle and flame

  8. Have child place candle and flame on card.

    Proud of his creation!

Voila!  It looks good enough to eat!  Just don’t let your child eat it.

Julius showing Dada the features of his card

 

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Pterrific

Well, dino week was a disaster.  Remember how I mentioned I’ve been doing themed weeks for Julius?  Last week was supposed to be dinosaur week, so I bought him a bunch of plastic dinosaurs and came up with a bunch of activities that utilized them.  The week started off okay.  On Monday we played with Julius’ magnetic dinosaur set and then Julius told me he wanted to fly.  So we made an impromptu pterodactyl cape and danced around to “Dinosaur Stomp” and “We are the Dinosaurs”.

Tuesday I brought out the “dinosaur dig site” I’d created out of some kinetic sand we’ve had for a while and 2 of the giant plastic dinosaurs.  I covered them up with just two tiny bumps sticking out and he stared at the sand warily.  He wanted to know what was sticking out.  I told him they were dinosaurs and I explained what paleontologists are, then told him he could dig them out to find out what kind they were.  (The dinosaurs came with a neat book with dinosaur facts and to identify the dinosaurs in plastic form and imagined prehistoric form.)  He started digging the first one, and unintentionally his shovel (spoon) scraped off some of the second dinosaur. He freaked out!  I don’t think he realized there were two different dinosaurs.  He basically refused to dig after that, and was terrified that they would jump out at him.  I tried a lot of different tactics over the next 3 days and managed to get him to dig one dinosaur out.  He was really excited with the dinosaur after he got it out of the sand and even took it to bed with him, but he refused to dig the second one out.  Finally, while he protested for me not to, I dug the second dinosaur up this past Saturday and gave it to him.  He went to sleep with this plastic dinosaur too.

It began at 7:24 AM like this…

2.5 hours later here we are…

What have we learned?  Julius is terrified of things hiding in sand.  Not dinosaurs themselves.  He hasn’t read Dune or anything yet to my knowledge, so I think he’s pretty smart.  Who knows when a sandworm might jump out of the playground.  We can also take away from dino-week that Julius loves stomping around like a dinosaur.  Plus the pterodactyl wings worked out great!  You can make some yourself too (for you or your child)!  I made these in about 10 minutes, with Julius watching/helping.

Spread those wings and fly

Pten Minute Pterodactyl Wings

What you’ll need:

  • ~ half a yard of scrap fabric – I used some blue fleece that my coworker gave to me.
  • about 2 feet of elastic (I know, this one is controversial in a time when we’re all conserving our elastic for masks… but my MiL was nice enough to ship me a roll of 110 yards of elastic…  You could instead use ribbon and tie the wings onto your child)
  1. Have your child put their arms out to the sides (as if they were flying – like the picture above) and measure your child from wrist to wrist.
  2. Mark this length on the top of your scrap fabric.
  3. Draw out a roughly dinosaur-wing shape complete with tail that extends about half the length of the wingspan (or measure from the nape of the neck to the child’s bum and use that measurement).  I found it easiest to make this symmetric by folding in half and then drawing and cutting.
  4. Cut 2 pieces of elastic 4″ long and 2 pieces 5″ long.  (Note, you may need to make this measurement larger or smaller.)
  5. Stitch one piece of 4″ elastic at either end of the wing tips, perpendicular to the top of the wings.  I folded the top of the wings down over one end of elastic and stitched in place, then tacked down the second part 1/4″ from the bottom of the elastic.
  6. Have child put on wings, and mark on the wings where their armpits are.
  7. Stitch 5″ elastic at the markings as in step 5.
  8. Let your little dinosaur be free.

 

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Let me tell you about nightmares

Julius has been struggling with nightmares lately.  Will just told me that every night before bed Julius asks, “Dada, will you take the nightmares away?”  To which Will responds, “of course”.  Will later said to me “what kind of father wouldn’t take away their child’s nightmares?”  Definitely not one even close to as good as you babe.

Speaking of nightmares and fatherhood, Will is getting ready to be a dad to baby number 2.  Which means I’m carrying around baby #2.  We’re really excited.  Though talk about a nightmare in terms of stress…  We found out I was pregnant 2 weeks before the outbreak started to flare in the US and I have been stressed ever since.  I’m a naturally stressed out person, even though I work really hard not to be (oxymoron?).  Unfortunately, this is a whole new level of stress.  Will, Julius and I haven’t gone anywhere, with the exception of me, who has only gone to and from pre-natal appointments.  My first pre-natal appointment was the first time I’d left the house in two weeks and I almost had a panic attack in the waiting room from anxiety.  When they got me in to check my vitals they told me my blood pressure was really high and I told them honestly that it was because I was terrified.

There is already so much to be terrified about during pregnancy, that lumping a pandemic into the mix is not so great downright shitty.  We’re really lucky that both Will and my jobs allowed us to work from home before, during and after stay-at-home orders were mandated.  Both companies will even continue to allow working from home through the end of the year.  On top of that, even before telling my co-workers I was pregnant, they all backed me up on being ultra-paranoid.  Many of them are doing the same thing.  And the best part?  My anxiety has gotten better.  I’m used to this weird parallel universe quarantine situation where I leave packages in the garage for 72 hours before touching them, strip down and shower whenever I come back from a jaunt in the contaminated outside world, and our only contact with neighbors is by shouting at them from across the street.  I feel pseudo-safe and content, like I’m living on a spaceship.

The problem now is that the economy is opening back up, everywhere.  Cue the return of anxiety.  The distressing part is that we all know the economy is not opening back up because we’ve kicked the pandemic in the butt, but because the current establishment doesn’t want to lose the next election for bringing about an economic depression.  But even though many people know not to trust the establishment, they are getting antsy.  They want to see their extended families.  They want to play with their grandchildren.  They want to leave their houses and go to a park with their children.  They want to bring their children back to daycare so they don’t have to juggle 8-9 hours of work a day with 12 hours of half-assed childcare.  I want all those things too, but I’m not ready yet.  I want to just stay in my spaceship with my two fellow astronauts until someone finds a vaccine.  Please just let us stay like this and don’t make us leave the house without a spacesuit, I really can’t handle any more stress.

One of the bonuses of being at home in my spaceship is I’ve started working on theme weeks for Julius.  We did crafts and activities about rainbows for 2 weeks in honor of pride month and now we’re onto dinosaurs.  Space and underwater will come next.  For Father’s day we paused the rainbow crafts for a day so Julius could help me make Yoda cards.  They came out so darn cute.  I haven’t seen this one before so thought I’d share it.  I tried to get Julius to put his hand print down in the ASL sign for “y” but he couldn’t do it.  It was kind of adorable.  We settled on painting just his pinky, thumb and palm and pressing the whole palm flat.  This worked great.

Yoda Best! Toddler Father’s Day Card

What you’ll need:

  • White cardstock
  • light green washable tempera paint
  • sponge
  • 2 googley eyes
  • small piece of brown construction paper (mine was recycled from the Totoro Tree, which was in turn recycled from a Halloween Tree)
  • glue stick
  • Elmer’s white glue
  • black marker
  • toddler
  1. Fold white cardstock in half to form a tall card.
  2. Have toddler open their palm then paint toddler’s palm, pinkie and thumb with the sponge and green paint.
  3. Press toddler’s hand onto the top front of card to form Yoda’s head.  Let dry.
  4. When Yoda’s head is dry, cut out proportionally sized robe for Yoda using scrap brown paper.  Have toddler glue robe on with glue stick.  (Julius loves glue sticks)
  5. Glue googley eyes in place by dotting Elmer’s glue and allowing child to press the eye in place. Let dry.
  6. When everything is dry, add “Yoda Best” in your best Star Wars-esque font.
  7. Give to your favorite dad/grandpa/great grandpa.

Julius was trying out the failed technique that we tried first. He had a lot of trouble keeping his fingers in the “y” shape.

Perfecting the second method.

Pressing down Yoda’s robe.

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Slippies

Well it’s June, so I figure it’s high time I tell you how I the Easter Bunny made those slippers in Julius’ Easter basket.  In all honesty they aren’t my best work.  They are a bit uneven and wonky looking, but that doesn’t both Julius.  He is quite proud of his slippers.  In fact Julius is already outgrowing the slippers but he still likes to put them on and prance around the house.  Have I mentioned how making things for a toddler is really rewarding?

If I make these slippers again there are a lot of things I’ll do differently – mainly I’ll try to find a better way to attach the top to the bottom of the slipper because hand stitching is a pain.

Toddler Slippers

What you’ll need (size US 6 toddler slipper):

  • fat quarter size of fleece for inside
  • fat quarter size of “vegan suede”
  • Pattern here
  1. Cut out all pattern pieces as marked.  Note you will need to flip the pattern over to cut out pieces for the opposite shoe.
  2. Assemble the shoe sides.  Place long strip of leather on top of long strip of fleece, right sides together.  Pin the top and stitch.
  3. Open out and stitch the fold in half so leather ends meet and fleece ends meet.  Stitch down this side, following the edge (it will form a slight ‘v’) then trim.
  4. Turn right side out and stitch 1/4″ from the top to form decorative stay-stitching.
  5. Place sole of slipper on top of flannel sole, wrong sides together and stitch 1/4″ from the edges.
  6. Pin sole of slipper to sides of slipper, right sides together.  Make sure the end with the seam is towards the heel of the shoe.  Stitch.
  7. Place the leather for the top of shoe on top of the flannel.  Stitch around the toe end.
  8. Turn right side out, fold under the open end and stay stitch close to all edges.
  9. Place top of shoe onto the toe area of the slipper, so the flannel side is inside.  Hand stitch around the top of the slipper to attach it to the bottom of the slipper.  Leave a 1/2″ gap from the start and end of the top of the shoe, for ease of inserting one’s foot. 
  10. Repeat steps 2-9 for second shoe. 

 

 

 

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An Optimization Problem

I finished the closet!  I’m finally ready to show you the closet in all it’s glory.  Stupidly I didn’t take pictures of the closet before I started redoing it, but here are a couple candid pictures to show you how bad it was beforehand.

Trying on dresses for Andrew and Lauren’s wedding. Yes that is a pile of boxes of dresses I ordered.  Note the uneven piles of clothing on the shelves in the background.

Behind the child with the ear thermometer you will notice some of my maxi dresses forced to puddle on the floor.

And here’s some photos to show you how it looked halfway through (if the top of the closet looks neater it’s because I had already started organizing it after installing the shelves).

How could I possibly stack clothes high enough to make that above rack space on the left efficient?

The entire wall on the left was devoted to robes.

What I hated about the old closet is first and foremost that those stupid wire shelves were so slippery that things would fall through the cracks.  Second – we didn’t have any space for folded clothes, that’s why we had mountains of seasonal folding clothes on top of the racks.  Which brings me to problem three – the closet was a HORRIBLE use of vertical space.  As an engineer I wanted to maximize my storage area, so stacking things 5 feet high was the only way to do that.  Five foot stacks though are impossible to retrieve items from and prone to falling over (so now we have an efficiency problem).  Going back to the vertical space problem, since every hanger was at the same height all the way around the closet, there wasn’t a single space for me to put a long dress (problem four).  I had to confiscate one of the other closets in the house to store my long dresses and gowns in, or else let them puddle on the floor.  Which brings me to problem five – that I had absolutely no where to put my shoes except under our clothing.

What I changed…  Mostly I added shelves, and adjusted the heights of the racks.  I concocted a weird scheme that worked out perfectly to maximize space and fit everything we had in our closet all ready and much more.  I originally planned to build everything myself, but eventually decided to go with an Elfa storage solution.  I designed the entire thing myself though instead of talking to the people at the container store.  A word of warning, the Elfa stuff is frustratingly complicated to design with.  There is lots of fine print on what you need to install a single shelf, and very little information on how much clearance you need built into everything.  I actually had to put in a second order to install one set of shelves because the shelves did not come with these tiny clear tabs that are required to mount them.  They cost me $8 to order all of the plastic tabs for all 8 of my shelves, and $13 for shipping.  I was furious since I’d already waited 10 weeks for my shelving order to come in (and seriously… talk about nickle-ing and dime-ing people).  The upside to Elfa?  I could do my crazy quirky customization with a little bit of math, even on a closet that has 4 different wall heights and widths.

Shelves for folding clothes from floor to ceiling.  I also migrated my robes (and scarves hiding underneath) from the adjacent wall, to this spot where an ironing board holder stood.

On the first wall I took out the main rack holding Will’s clothes on the first wall and we had built in shelves installed.  This allowed us no problem getting into the room, and increased our folding clothes storage dramatically.  I also moved the hangers that were taking up an entire wall in the old closet over in front of the shelves where an ironing board rack had been (which never had an iron or ironing board on it the entire time we’ve lived here).

More pictures of the folding clothes storage, and the high/low clothing rack.

The second wall I divided into two sections.  The first was a high/low section for Will’s clothing, which fit all the hanging clothes from the clothing rack we removed.  Next to that I placed a normal-height rack for additional clothing.  Above that section I added two rows of shelves to house my purses.  Doesn’t that just make your engineering brain happy?  It is a way better use of vertical space.

High/low rack plus purse storage.

In the back you can see my dress rack surrounded by hanging storage and shelving.

On the third wall, tucked behind my clothing rack, shoe racks and purses, I installed a small bar for tall hanging dresses.  This space was basically useless last time because it was where two rods intersected.  The rest of that wall I kept at the same height as last time.  I even left a single shoe rack under there.

My shoe wall in all it’s glory.

On the fourth wall (formerly where we hung almost-never-used robes) I put in a floor-to-ceiling shoe rack, which is really just narrow shelving spaced close together.

What do you think?  Does it look like a mad engineer’s project?  All I know is every time I walk into my new closet I smile.

 

 

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