Dollar Tree Valentines

So there’s a reason I don’t write a craft blog. It’s this:


I never clean up as I work. If you write a craft blog, you have to take pictures along the way, so you clean up as you go. Me? I make a mess, scoot to the next open space on the table, and plan to clean it up when I’m done. Or tomorrow. Ok… definitely by two weeks from now.

Actually, there are a few other reasons I don’t write a craft blog. I’m always doing dumb stuff like cutting my own fingers with scissors or pressing print before I double check my spelling. I also am frequently missing essential items like a paper cutter or a whole punch, and my improvised tools don’t work so well. Projects that look like they’ve been cut out by a second grader don’t make for very good close-ups.

I definitely like to be crafty, but most of the time it seems that it takes too much time and money…two things I don’t have very much of that is unspoken for already. But tonight the pinspiration hit me, and I managed to pull off homemade Valentine’s for both of my kids’ classes. (Oh gees…I really did just use that word.)

Jay was at a meeting at church, and the kids and I had a few hours to kill. I now have just enough experience as a mom to know that if I wait until Wednesday night to figure out Valentines, it will be disaster all around. That’s certainly not enough time to pull off something homemade, and the only premade cards at Wal-mart will be either very expensive, inappropriate, or something you’ve never heard of in your life. Yeah….been there, done that.

So I pried Chica away from My Little Pony (what is it with that show these days??), loaded both kids up, and headed to the Dollar Tree. Actually, first I showed her a few non-food Valentine ideas that I thought we could pull off with stuff from our one-stop shopping trip. She didn’t seem particularly thrilled by any of them (I was rooting for these), so I told her we’d just be on the lookout for something else there that would inspire us. And then, of course, I had to define inspire.

After nixing the heart shaped mazes (Come on….”You amaze me”……so perfect!), the silly straws, and the bugs, she finally landed on glow sticks. We had seen a glow stick idea before we left, so I liked the idea of something I wouldn’t have to recreate. I also found bubbles for Bubba’s class (I was thinking, You blow my mind, Valentine), glue sticks for Chica’s teachers (I’m stuck on you), and lotion for Bubba’s teachers (Thanks for making every day so smooth). Oh, and she picked out a card for her daddy, complete with jokes she didn’t really understand, and one somewhat useful item from the man aisle. Useful if you were stranded on a deserted island, maybe?? We made it out of there and managed to only drop $15.

Anyway, I got home, made the usual Daddy’s-not-home dinner (PBJ), and decided to look for ways to pull off these projects quickly and easily. Guess what?! I found something ready to just print, cut out, and tie or tape on for three out of four of my projects. Since we’ve only recently acquired a printer as a hand-me-down, I am just now realizing the miracle that is the “free printable.” Jackpot!

In case you need a quick, cheap, and easy homemade Valentine, here’s a rundown of my sources:

Glow Stick Printable. All that’s left to do is to have Chica sign her name to all 17 of them. You don’t think that will take all week, do you? : )

Bubbles Printable. This mom made the pattern to fit Dollar Tree bubbles, so they were absolutely perfect. This turned out to be my favorite of the night.

Stuck On You Printable. Her actual craft that goes with the printable is way cooler than my dollar store glue sticks, but my glue sticks are way more useful in a pre-k class, I guess.

I couldn’t find anything I really liked for my lotion idea, so I used these gift tags and some super-cute fonts I found here to make my own.

Oh gees, it’s 11:00. Wrap this thing up, Tracy!

So here’s the big money idea (or maybe two) for the night: creative people are really just people who are good at borrowing other people’s ideas. Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. If you have an idea, chances are someone else has had it before too. If it’s something crafty, check Pinterest and Google images to see if you can mooch off their hard work. And spend the time you saved yourself on cleaning up your work space when you are done. (Ugh…still have to do that.)

Big money #2: I am not too proud to admit that this project today was 95% about me. Chica would probably be much more thrilled with a box of My Little Pony tear off cards than her homemade Valentines. Bubba’s classmates might enjoy the bubbles, but they’ll be oblivious to the perfectly-sized wrap I so carefully (ha!) added. But seeing this project from start to finish has made me feel good. I like creating (or recreating, I guess) and admiring the finished product when done. Oh, and I like writing about it.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wish you a little time this week to do something you enjoy doing, too!

Insufficient Memory

Yesterday while painting pottery with some dear friends, I got the dreaded “insufficient memory” message on my camera.  I wasn’t sure where on the computer Jay wanted to dump the contents of the memory card, so I didn’t try to conquer this task on my own.  This meant that today we ventured out camera-less.  If I had carried my camera, here are the snapshots I would have shared…

Chica riding her new bike on the trail for the first time—The contrast in this picture is especially striking.  There’s girly Chica in her pink shirt and pink Dora helmet sitting on top of her shiny, bright red boy bike.  We got the bike last night on a spontaneous trip to Wal-mart after we determined that her other bike was just too small.  When they didn’t have a girl bike in her size, we convinced her that the red made her look fast.  We were secretly thankful that this means Bubba automatically has a hand-me-down he can use.

There would be lots of good shots from our ride, but two stand out.  One would be her turning around with her “tell me I’m doing great” smile when she finally has it figured out.  Just like her mama!  The other would actually be a video clip.  She had three spills after running over sticks along the trail.  After the third one she stands up, brushes herself off, and says, “Well, at least I didn’t get dead.”  Now there’s some optimism for you.

Bubba cradling the whisk and spatula—Today out of desperation we handed Bubba two new toys, the whisk and spatula.  They were so intriguing to him that we let him have them again in the car.  As usual, he fell asleep on the ride.  When we arrived, we found him clutching them both to his chest like a favorite stuffed animal.  A chef in the making, maybe?  Jay decided this would look a little strange while running errands in the store, so he pried them out of his hands before leaving the car.

Bubba with the trashcan on his head—Tonight I was helping MIL create some Pinterest inspired wall art for her office.  While Chica watched Sprout, Bubba was busy dumping every toy possible into the floor.  Next thing I know, Bubba has flipped a whicker trashcan over onto his head.  It’s covering his whole body, with trash spread out around him.  The worst part was that Jay and I just sat their laughing.  It was that kind of laugh that makes you cry and afraid you might pee yourself if you move.  Thankfully MIL rescued him.  He wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or to cry when it was all over.

Chica flipping me the bird—Just a few minutes after the trashcan episode, Chica says, “Look mom, I need a band-aid.  I have blood.”  I look up and see her nicked middle finger, plain as day, about two inches from my face.  I hold it together for about 1.5 seconds, and then I just let out yet another careful-don’t-pee -yourself laugh.  “Mom, why you are laughing?”

Some days I wish our brains worked like a memory card.  When our brains have their fill of beautiful, funny, and even mundane memories, we should be able to dump them somewhere to retrieve later.  Instead it feels like my brain just chucks those memories left and right.  The ones I do keep seem to get more and more out of focus as time passes.  Always insufficient memory.  Even more reason, I guess, to keep writing.  Here’s to hoping I find this 50 years from now and get another good laugh from today’s photos that should have been.

Summer Fun in a Tub

Hi.  My name is Tracy.  I’m a Pinterest addict.

There, I said it.  Admitting you have a problem is half the battle, right?  Maybe I should look on Pinterest for ways to fight addiction.  Oh.  Wait.

So I spend several hours a day nursing sweet Bubba with a laptop balancing on my knees.  He is very easily distracted, so I usually have to sequester myself away from anything noisy (i.e. Chica).  After weeks of poking around on Pinterest during this time, I decided to finally get my own account yesterday.  (Gees….was that only yesterday?)  There were way too many ideas floating around in my head for fun things to do this summer with my little kiddos.   If only there was a way to keep track of all those ingenious blog post ideas.  Ha.  I finally get it.

Temperatures in the ‘Burg are expected to reach triple digits in the next week, so I’ve got my pins all ready for engaging indoor experiments and cool-yourself-off outside water play.  My list of things to pick up from the store to pull off all of these ideas was getting longer and longer, so I decided to make yet another “project” out of the shopping itself.  I made Chica her own shopping list that we would take to the Dollar Tree, complete with words, pictures, and a place to check off the items we found.   I told myself that this idea would be a great way to practice using picture clues to sound out new words.  Truth is that shopping with Chica is usually torture for me.  The last time we ventured out together, I turned around to see her feeling up a mannequin.  No joke.  This shopping list was really my attempt to reign her in a bit so that I wouldn’t jump ship before we found what we needed.

I told Chica ahead of time that we were on a mission to find the items pictured, and we sounded the words out together.  I also explained that after perusing the whole store, we would walk back through and each pick two additional items that might be fun to add to our Summer Fun Tub.  Okay, so I ended up with three, but luckily she didn’t figure it out.

We ended up spending $19 on the following:

  • Two spray bottles and four sponge balls for outdoor water fun
  • Magnetic Numbers for cookie sheet practice
  • Tweezers for fine motor skills
  • A dustpan and handheld broom for cleaning up the messes we will make
  • Butterfly shaped flyswatters for an outdoor painting project
  • Sea creatures for freezing in ice blocks
  • Measuring spoons and cups for experimenting with capacity
  • A calculator for practicing reading digital numbers
  • My three freebies were a 500 piece puzzle for myself, masking tape for creating Hot Wheel-sized roadways on the floor, and mini popsicle molds
  • Below are Chica’s extra two choices.  I have no comment.  Jay’s comment was, “What did you expect when telling a four year old she can pick what she wants at the store?

Jay just returned from Wally World with Round 2 for the tub.  He spent about $16 on these items:

  • Plaster of Paris for a craft I’ve always wanted to try
  • Funnels and a sprinkler for more water play
  • Marbles for making homemade butter and a pool noodle race track
  • Glycerin and straws for making bubbles
  • Markers to replace the ones we’re always losing

Tomorrow I’m hoping to finish my collection with tempra paint, pool noodles, squeeze bottles, and a few more odds and ends.  I have also added a few things from around the house that I already had….food coloring, ice trays, sidewalk chalk, cupcake liners, pipe cleaners, etc. My goal is to create a go-to box that will last us all summer for under $75.

Our first two pin-inspired projects today were successes.  We have a family of sea creatures captured in ice blocks in the freezer waiting to be set free by a squirt bottle tomorrow.  We also experimented with food coloring and pouring while discussing phase change in four year old language.

One final thought….I could fill my tub with tools, my boards with pins, and my calendar with events, but nothing is as inspiring as everyday objects in the hands of a curious and creative child.  Tonight Bubba sat on the edge of a blanket and explored the grass for nearly 20 minutes.  While he played, Chica gathered all the sticks in the yard and built two pretend campfires on which she roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.  No advance planning, materials, or prompting from Mommy needed.  Take that, Pinterest!