How to Make a Small Gift More Awesome

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Kids have an innate sense of fairness. They want everyone to have the same number of gifts AND roughly the same size. Teenagers are old enough to understand that good things come in small packaging, but young children are often wowed by the sheer size of things.

This year I found an awesome gift for A. He’s really into construction vehicles and Costco had this:

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Super awesome. He tends to get shafted on gifts since his interests are limited and we already have stuff leftover from when V was into the same thing. Why get more dinosaurs? We already have dinosaurs. This is a chance to get him something that’s his and his alone.

The problem is that V asked Santa for blind bags and Kinder Surprise Eggs- things that fit into the palm of your hand. How do I spruce up her gifts so they aren’t dwarfed next to her brother’s massive box?

It’s all about presentation.

The YouTube videos she watches often have kids digging toys out of play-doh. Well that’s not going to work. It would dry out and get hard overnight and I sure as hell don’t want to craft something at 5am Christmas morning before she wakes up.

I decided to try making an egg out of paper mache, using this site as a guide. It was actually pretty cheap. They tell you how to make your own glue. I already had newspaper and paint. All I needed was a balloon for the shape. I chose one of those heavy-duty balloons because they’re larger and got to work.

I cooked the glue and allowed it to cool. Then I cut strips of newspaper and inflated my balloon. I needed something to hold it steady so I used V’s drum. I applied glue with a sauce brush thing and laid the strips on the balloon. I tried to put on two coats and change the directions of the strips periodically to add support. I left a section open on the bottom so I’d be able to put the toys in.

I popped the balloon and removed it. I then made the mistake of trying to paint the newspaper, but I could see right through the paint. The site recommended using computer paper for the final layer so I cut more strips and added a white layer on top. Next I got the toys (Shopkins, blind bags, overpriced surprise eggs) and placed them inside before sealing the gap. Obviously the seal is flat since I’d removed the balloon. I’ll be putting that end on the floor. It’ll actually help the egg stay upright.

Next I got out the paint and tried to do the best approximation that I could. The SURPRISE came out a little long but whatever. V is five I doubt she’ll care. I’ll probably go back once the paint is dry to outline the SURPRISE with a Sharpie.

This project took several days as I had to allow the glue time to fully dry and I could only work while the kids were in school. The glue stored quite well in the fridge. I just put the pot in there with the lid on and it was still good after a week of use.

I’m quite pleased with the results. Normally I don’t get super crafty with my kids but hey, it’s Christmas. I can’t wait to see how V reacts.

 

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Updates

This blog has been on hiatus for a while. Turns out having children sucks up a lot of your free time. Who knew?

Anyway, a lot has happened since my last post. Two things stand out though:

  1. In October 2014 my son was diagnosed with autism.
  2. In May 2015 I gave birth to my second daughter.

I’m going to attempt to update this blog more often.

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Here are the kids. V, A, and introducing baby K.

Planning Birthday #3

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Kid birthdays can be expensive. Last year I tried to save money by having a party at home and including birthday gifts in part of the fun. We had a Sesame Street themed birthday, and I use the term “themed” loosely. We basically bought plates/cups/napkins for the kids and used regular fair for the adults. I made goodie bags for all of the kids, which was much harder than I expected. We had 10 kids attending (all party gifts come in packs of 8), and I had to find stuff the kids would use that wouldn’t be a choking hazard. This year that part should be easier in that regard.

Our friends seem 50/50 with the having parties at home vs. renting a room somewhere. I checked the prices of several places, and they range from $250-450. That seems like a lot up front, and I wasn’t sure how many kids would actually show, so I decided to go “cheaper” by staying at home again. But after today, I’m sure we’ll end up spending at least $300 on a party at home.

First off, we found out that bouncy houses weren’t all that much. So we rented one for $135. Unfortunately, it’s pretty small because we have large trees restricting how tall it can be. Then there’s $130 for the removal of one annoying tree, which may or may not be included as a party expense. I’ve been wanting to get rid of that tree, but the bouncy house set a timeline for it.

V decided to go with dinosaurs for her party. Excellent choice, and fitting considering her Evite (sent weeks ago) has a dinosaur on it. I googled dinosaur parties and parents can get pretty elaborate with these things. I mean this is kinda overkill considering your child will probably not remember the event. Cool as hell, but jeez. At this age they don’t even really do games or crafts. Parents do them. Some of that stuff seems wasted.

Today I bought all this crap:

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Ok the lunch box and water bottle aren’t for the party; I just thought they were cute.

All this set me back another $65. I also ordered these, and these and these from Amazon ($32). Yes, I decided that 72 mini plastic dinosaurs was needed. Why pay $3 for 12 when I can get 72 for $8.50?! Don’t laugh. I almost got 48 foam dinosaur gliders because they were only $9. Only 10 kid RSVPs so far, but I’m sure I could put these to good use.

Right now we’re sitting at around $230 for this party and I haven’t even ordered the cake yet. My husband wants to cook tri tip sandwiches for the adults so food isn’t going to be super cheap either. Hmm, renting a place next year is looking better and better.

One Year- Little Man

My Little Man,

In just a few days you will be turning one year old. This year has gone by incredibly fast. Kids certainly seem to have that effect on time. I’m sure it helps that I’ve done all this once before.

You can’t talk yet and Daddy, as usual, is concerned. He thought V was talking by now (I checked, she wasn’t). You can kinda say “mama” and “dada.” You say “weee” and something that sounds like “Bree.” As soon as you learned to walk you started getting more vocal with your frustrations, waving your arms around and crying if you couldn’t fit through a space or play with something you had your eye on.

Walking is one area where you have your sister beat. You started walking on July 4th, two weeks before your first birthday. V walked toward the end of 12 months or the start of 13 months. You’re very good about falling down on your butt, not your face, despite your enormous head.

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I don’t have your measurements yet (next week), but you’ve consistently been around 14% in weight, 35% for height and 81% for head. Almost twelve months and you can still fit in six month onesies and three-month shorts! Six-month pants are far too long for your legs. You barely have any hair, but I kinda like it that way. You look adorable with your round, bald head. Plus you like smearing food on the back of your head after eating so the less hair right now, the better.

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V loves you so much, though she’s not always very nice to you. Now that you’re walking, you’re going after her favorite stuffed animals (and there are a lot), which pisses her off to no end. She frequently pushes you, kicks you, and steals toys from you. But she also hugs you. I have a whole two pages in your first year photo album of V hugging or holding you. She adores you, and hates when any other kids want to play with you.

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You’ve been much nicer to Daddy so far. V was very clingy from the start, while you enjoy most people. You’re a little clingier now, but nowhere near as bad as she was. Daddy’s so happy to get some affection from his kids. I hope you keep it up.

You’ve been a great eater so far. You try everything even if you don’t like everything. You do eat vegetables, so you’re one up on V in that regard. I hope you can teach some good habits to your sister, not the other way around.

We got you some new shoes so you can start walking at the park. We tried sandals, but they kept falling off and getting bark under your feet. I’m so happy you can walk. Parks might actually get fun again!

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You sleep much better than V, or at least you’re a bit more manageable. I can move you at least. When she fell asleep, I couldn’t move a muscle or even detach my boob without fear of waking her up. I can shove you across the bed, more you to the crib, etc. and at least most of the time it’s ok. I’m actually looking forward to you dropping your morning nap. It gets interrupted so much because of your sister’s activities (sorry!). It would be really nice if you guys were on a similar schedule. You just started sleeping through the night in your crib. I’m sure it will get screwed up though because we’re about to go on vacation again. We’re going to the circus for your birthday.

You don’t have a lovey yet. I’ve tried giving you our spare Clifford, since V doesn’t care about it anymore. You’ve shown some interest, but not much. You do like one toy that Pickles gave you- a monster that sings Monster Mash and dances. It’s not really appropriate for carrying around town though, or snuggling in bed.

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V is supposed to start preschool twice a week in September, so hopefully you and I will have a bit more time together by ourselves.

I love you my Little Man. Happy birthday.

One Year- Pooh Bear

I wrote this when V turned one. I couldn’t figure out a way to end it so I left it in my draft file and forgot about it. I’ll writing something similar for Little Man and thought now would be a good time to post it. Better late than never, right?

——–
Dear Pooh Bear,

Thank you for giving me the best year of my life. I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to have you. I love you so much.

You’re standing up all the time now. Daddy thinks this means you’ll be walking soon, but I can tell it will be a few more months at least.You got a toy car for your birthday that you love to climb in and out of. I’ve caught you stuck halfway out of the car window while trying to climb onto something else. You’re all about trying to climb on things now. If I’m on the couch you insist that I sit on the floor so you can climb over me.

You love to dance. There’s a dinosaur riding toy in the livingroom that alternates between a song and sound effects when you smack his scales. You’ll sit there and skip to the songs, then stand up and shake your hips. Any toy with music is a favorite.

Speaking of favorites, you finally picked a “lovey.” It’s almost a tie. There’s a little Easter bunny you got that you like to drag around. I like Bunny Foofoo because he’s machine washable. You like him because the ears are easy to grab and he’s got a bell inside. Your real favorite is Clifford. I picked him up at Kohl’s on a whim. He was $5 and sitting at a display near the register. He’s got big floppy ears and has rapidly become the toy you drag everywhere. If we ask “Where’s Clifford?” you look around until you find him.

You can’t say anything besides variations of “mamma” and “dadda” but you’re certainly trying. Grandpa got you a video that’s supposed to help you learn to read and it’s teaching you lots of new vocabulary words. You try to say “dog” and “cat.” You shake your head for both “no” and “yes” (you can’t figure out how to nod). You’re starting to learn body parts, and will lift your arms up when we tell you to.

We held your first birthday party in Southern California. It took me forever to pick a location. Originally it was going to be at my mom’s house, but then someone suggested a park and that led to a whole search for parks in Orange County. Eventually we just stuck with my mom’s house though. The concern was having all the divorced relatives (well, one of them) together with others in a confined environment. But hey, they’ll have to learn to deal with such things when it comes to you.

You got a ton of toys. The livingroom is full of toys now, not that it was lacking any before. You already had a riding dinosaur, but you got two scooter cars, a riding pony, and that big car for your birthday. It was a bit much and I wish we’d had a little more variety. At least the big car has been a huge hit and it’ll go well outside once we get the backyard fixed up.

You’re still not eating vegetables, but at least you’re trying more table foods. You want to try anything I’m eating. We’re still breastfeeding too but it’s down to naptime and morning feedings only. I’m not even nursing you to sleep at night anymore. I finally managed to get you to sleep in the crib again. It was really tough, but Daddy and Mommy needed some alone time. I also couldn’t have you staying up at late as me every night.

Movie Scenes my Kid Imitates

“It’s time to let go! Mommy, it’s time to let go!” The first time I heard this coming from the back seat of the car I couldn’t figure out why V was saying it. I quickly found out: the suction cup on the corner of her sun shade had come off and she was pulling on it. Many weeks followed of me telling her to stop it, and her repeating this phrase. She wouldn’t let go until she’d said it. The way she said it was pretty dramatic as well. Then one day it hit me. She was quoting Dory from Finding Nemo.

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Martin always had trouble letting go.

As V’s attention span has improved, we’ve begun watching more movies. She watches something every morning. This allows me to sleep in longer if she wakes up super early and lets me cook breakfast unhindered. There are downsides though. Imitation is one of them. You never know what scene your kid is going to mentally latch onto and imitate. Some things are innocuous; others not so much.

Thanks to The Jungle Book, V thinks that this is an appropriate way to wake people up:

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Bagheera getting slapped out of a trance.

Not that people have to be asleep for her to do this. Usually she tries to do it to me when I’m helping her go potty in the morning. No matter how many times I try to get her to pat me on the shoulders instead, she always goes for the face first.

My Neighbor Totoro is an awesome movie. If you haven’t watched it with your kids you should definitely give it a try. I was surprised it managed to hold V’s attention, but it did. For two weeks straight that was all she wanted to watch. Most of the movie is just kids being kids- exploring, playing, etc. The only downside was that she picked up a phrase she didn’t know before.

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“It’s not fair!”

 

Yes, that phrase. One morning she woke up and just said it repeatedly for like 30 minutes. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to understand how to use it in context, so she has stopped using it (for now).

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a favorite for a while. V cackled when Pooh fell down the tree, and she decided to reenact one particular scene with her brother.

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This one.

It wasn’t too bad. He was crawling on the floor and she grabbed on to the back of his onesie. Every time they pulled on-screen, she would tug his onesie. I have a picture somewhere but couldn’t find it.

If I ever need V to burn off some energy all I have to do is put on the stampede scene from The Lion King.

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She will run from the couch all the way down the hall and back every time she sees the wildebeests run.

Another scene from The Lion King also had an impact. Simba has just been reunited with his old friend Nala. The two are talking so excitedly that they completely ignore Timon and Pumbaa. Timon gets pissed, walks up between them and yells, “What’s going on here?!”

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Can you guess when V imitates this? Of course it’s when my husband and I are talking. As annoying as it is, I do have to admire how well this matches her life. Timon is this tiny creature dwarfed by the two lions; my daughter is a 2.5 year old who is dwarfed by her parents. My husband and I get so little time together that we do tend to tune out to the kids any chance we get to converse. She must feel just like Timon.

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Although I’m not sure which is more annoying- the “What’s going on here?!” or her previous “Mommy, don’t talk to Daddy! Talk to V!”

So I guess the lesson in all this would be that kids will find the worst scene in a movie to imitate, though it probably won’t be the one you think.

 

Miscommunication

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Even though my child speaks fluent English, sometimes things don’t seem to connect. Today she wanted some goldfish, so I asked her to bring me the green bowl on the table. She knows what green is. She knows what a bowl is, and where the table is. But she can’t figure this one out. She goes to the table and completely ignores the bowl. I tell her it’s on the table. She looks near the table, then under the table and basically every other place except AT the bowl. I ended up having to hand it to her and she still seemed slightly confused. Go figure.

A Dialogue with my Computer

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Amazon recently had a lot of games on sale, including Bioshock 1 & 2 for $5 total. I’ve been hearing for years that the series was good, but I’m not super fond of FPS (especially ones that tend to scare me) so I’d always avoided it. Infinite is supposed to be excellent though, and $5 is a damn good price for the prequels. I played through Bioshock 1 and I really enjoyed it. I was anxious to start playing Bioshock 2, but I had to wait for the install and then wait until the kids were napping. Things didn’t exactly go as planned. This is basically the dialogue I had with my PC:

“You need a game key to play Bioshock 2.”

“Here.”

“That’s wrong.”

Fifteen minutes later. Apparently Amazon game keys and Steam keys are different. “Ok, time to play!”

“Nope. You need to sign in to Windows LIVE to play single player. ”

“Er…k. Sign me up for LIVE. ”

“You need to create an XBOX account. ”

“I’m playing on a PC!”

“Doesn’t matter. You need an XBOX account.”

“Ok, sign me up for that.”

“But first you need a LIVE account!”

“So I need a LIVE account and an XBOX account?”

“Yes.”

“Fine. Sign me up for LIVE.”

“Thank you for giving me lots of personal information. You now have a LIVE account.”

“Sign me up for XBOX.”

“Done.”

Changes all privacy settings on account to high. Restarts game. “Ok, time to play!”

“Hold on there. You need to sign into your LIVE account!”

“Done.” Selects Automatic Sign In “Time to play!”

“Not yet! First I need to install some LIVE updates. You need to close the game first. Oh, and I might need to restart your computer.”

“#$%%&*^!”

“Can you get me past your Firewall? Now can do dirty things to your hard drive?”

“Yes. Now can I play?” Restarts game.

“No! First you need to sign into LIVE again, then apply another update. Please quit the game.”

More changes to hard drive and Bioshock 2 Set Up Wizard. Game started on its own. I take this as a good sign.

“Please sign in again. Ok, now wait while I download your profile. This could take a few minutes. That should just about do it…and….”

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“Oh you gotta be kidding me.”

Thankfully, the game worked fine after that. Unfortunately, an hour of naptime was gone by the time I was able to play.

The Dilemma

I have to decide whether or not to return to work full time for two years.

In 2008 I got my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. My preliminary credential. The first two years in teaching are the most difficult. A good portion of teachers quit in their first three years. Here in California, they have the BTSA program to try to combat this problem. You teach full time for two years. During this time an experienced teacher attends some of your classes and offers feedback. It’s supposed to help make the first few years easier. Onca BTSA is complete your credential is cleared.

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My problem is timing. Note the year that I graduated: 2008. The teacher layoffs were just beginning then. Every time fellow graduates met the first thing we asked each other was, “Did you find a job?” I job hunted from April until September that year. I couldn’t find a teaching job so I started hunting for something, anything. I got lots of interviews but no job offers, even in banking, where I had nine years of experience. Finally I landed a crap job in retail in October. It was the best that I could find and that was extremely depressing.

I had originally wanted to wait until my career was set before having children. My college advisor had recommended waiting until I’d been teaching for three years before having kids. However, I wasn’t getting any younger and my career wasn’t advancing at all. The time never seemed to be right for having kids so we decided to just do it.

Flash forward a few years. I have two wonderful children, ages 2 1/2 and 9 months, but my preliminary credential is set to expire. I applied for an extension and even got a supplemental authorization so that I can teach agriculture. I really wanted a supplemental authorization in science to make myself more marketable, but I was informed that I need six more units in Geoscience. My extension lasts three years, but BTSA will take up two of those years. So in order to keep my credential, I have to get a full time job this fall or next fall and keep it for two years. Otherwise, all my hard work was for naught.

The thing is, I don’t want to work full time yet. My kids are still really young, and I’d like to have one more. But losing a credential is a pain in the ass. It looks like you have to retake all the tests and a bunch of the classes too. I need to think about my long term job potential, but I don’t want to neglect my children by returning to work too soon. It’s not just that I’d be working, teaching is a stressful job that you take home with you. Even something as simple as preschool involves hours of prep. I was a daycare/latch key kid and I don’t want that for my own children.

Cutting materials for Yoda hand puppets is time consuming.

Cutting materials for Yoda hand puppets is time consuming.

It’s a tough decision to make. I’m applying for jobs now. I’m both terrified that I’ll get a job and terrified that I won’t. There’s a job fair this Wednesday through the county that’s actually going to have credential Q&A, so hopefully I can get some more answers or learn about alternative options there. The CTC, like many government websites, is both informative and vague. It has a lot of information that you need, but not what you’re specifically looking for.

Things That Sound Bad When Taken Out of Context

“Don’t hit Mommy! Don’t hit Mommy’s head! Tell her you’re sorry!”

– This after my husband bopped me on the head with an empty water bottle in the car.

We’re very big on not hitting right now, especially as little brother is often the recipient.