Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkins, Tweens & Drama

Carving jack-o-lanterns is a family tradition of ours.  Usually, it coincides with halloween.  Makes sense, right?  But because we seem to be in the "buckle up because this ride NEVER stops" phase of our lives, we were a little late this year.

Ok, a lot late.  Once halloween passed us by, it took a good two weeks to find a free afternoon to carve up some pumpkins.  And we happened to be listening to Christmas music that afternoon.  That was a little surreal, but we didn't let it phase us.  R was super excited about the whole operation.  But then, that's her M.O.  She gets excited about everything. 

We're thinking her pumpkin ended up as a monkey.  With a little pumpkin puppet man walking on his head.  Shaggy was in charge, that's the only explanation I can give.
J did little more than consult when it came time to carve his pumpkin.  And he drew in an ear on the right.  We decided this pumpkin looks rather angry and fierce, like someone you would never want to mess with.  Shaggy doesn't put much stock in the traditional happy pumpkin faces, as you can see.  But when you're given such a perfect stem nose, you have to use it.  No man made pumpkin nose could be better than this one.
J was more into making pumpkin faces with spikey hair using leftover snack mix from his birthday party.  At least it looked happy.
Which is more than I can say for the pumpkin K and S were in charge of carving.
Yes, our lovely pair of tween daughters were less than enthusiastic about the whole endeavor.  They actually complain LESS when we make them scrub toilets.  Go figure.

K drew in the eyes and the nose and left the mouth for S.  K is all about making sure she isn't carrying more of the workload than her siblings.  S, as you can see, is all about expressing her true feelings through her artistic endeavors.  I had to laugh when I saw their pumpkin face mock up.  It was so reminiscent of the sad face pictures S used to draw and slip under our door when she thought she wasn't getting the proper amount of attention during her time of sadness.  Oh, the drama!
This is my reaction to drama.  Not very dramatic.

But the drama dished up by these two tweens on this particular afternoon was actually pretty entertaining.  Shaggy and I couldn't stop laughing.  Maybe not the most sensitive parenting approach, I'll admit.  But the drama eventually faded into into laughter.  I'll let the photos tell the story.
I think this pumpkin carving episode will go down in our family record books.  It's certainly one to remember.
And I will always remember how much these pumpkins made me laugh when I looked at them sitting on my counter.  I think that was probably my favorite part of this whole episode.  Laughing at these perfect pumpkins.  Sad, angry and goofy.  So perfect.  How can we ever top this?  How can we ever come up with more perfect jack-o-lanterns?

Mr. Roboto

Robots!  Who doesn't love robots?!  There's just no way to go wrong with a robot birthday.

Plus, I've been wanting to make a robot cake for a while now.  And with J's sudden interest in all things robotic, this was the perfect time for it.  I scoured the web for robot cake pictures, stole the ideas I liked and made up the rest.  This is one of the few cakes I have made that I sort of wished I didn't have to carve into pieces.  He just turned out so stinkin' cute.

Ok, for any cake afficionados that happen to stumble across my blog, here are the nitty gritty details.  The body is made of three cake squares, the head is two layers.  I used foil wrapped cardboard to support the body and head layers.  The arms and legs  and neck are mini chocolate donuts with frosting stars between them.  The arms have a cleaned wire hanger running through them and the cake to support them.  I just didn't like the arms-stuck-to-the-side look that I saw in so many of the similar robot cakes.  Feet are just made from cake carved to the right shape.  Eyes are peach rings with brown m&ms.  The mouth is a piece of fruit stripe gum.  The ears are blow pops stuck through apple rings.  Antannaes are tootsie pops.  The orange patches are made from molded starburst.  The rivets are chocolate sprinkles.  (Yes, that was tedious!)  The control panel is fondant with mini m&ms.  And all the dials (made by my creative assistant, aka hubby) are made from fondant and colored with . . .  ahem . . . sharpies.  Yeah, not so edible.  Which we made sure the kids knew.  But they were easy and sure looked great.  Who needs a cake to actually taste good? 

Oh wait, I do.  Which this one did once the dials were removed.  But really, the donuts and the suckers were the coveted parts of this cake.  I could have scraped the rest in the garbage and I don't think the kids would have cared all that much.
Except for baby B and little R who were all about the frosting.
The poor little robot got very tired as the day wore on and began slumping over to one side.  But he managed to stay upright and even keep his head until dissection time.
Good robot.  And there are actually seven candles on this cake, even though it looks for all the world like there's only five.  I know for certain that J would never let me get away with a mistake as monumental as the wrong number of candles on his birthday cake.
Apparently, if you're going to do a robot party, you have to make some sort of nuts and bolts snack mix.  It's the robot party standard.  So I went to Walmart to hunt for some ideas.  My mix has pretzel sticks, honey chex, mini Ritz crackers, fruit loops, and m&ms.  What is snack mix without m&ms, after all?  The kids liked it, but it was the computer chips (aka Doritos) that were inhaled at a dizzying rate.  To be expected, I suppose, since I haven't bought them in years.
There are three main reasons for a kid to attend a birthday party.  1) Cake.  2) Games.  3) Goody bags.  They could care less if these three things relate to each other or the party theme, if there is one.  They just have to be cool.  But I enjoy making everything relate to the theme.  It's a trivial little challenge that I happen to find fun.

So my goody buckets were made to look like robots with some leftover craft supplies I've been debating throwing out.  Guess it's good I delayed.  Inside my goody buckets were the following items:  robot ducks, suckers and erasers from OTC, robot sticker books from Amazon, and a jar of robot batteries.  It's amazing what you can do with an extra bag of m&ms and some washed out baby food jars.
We played a robot version of Simon Says with this robot face Shaggy made.  Tissue paper covered the mouth and eyes and the flashlight let the kids know when they were supposed to follow instructions and when they were supposed to ignore them.  Maybe it's just my kids, but they were really terrible at this game.  Which made it funny to watch.
We found a Creativity for Kids kit that had some little make-your-own wind up robots.  They turned out pretty cute and bought us a good 45 minutes of calm party time.  Races were planned, but the kids got sidetracked.
Shaggy and the girls decorated these boxes for robot demolition.  We wanted to do it outside with a swinging wrecking ball, but it was pouring rain.  So the kids just built them and knocked them down repeatedly.  Which was actually a lot more entertaining than it sounds.
That wierd looking green box with a pie tin inside was for target practice.  We rounded up some nerf guns and it made such a satisfying ding when the target was hit.
The highlight for J came when he opened his cash box and he discovered that it came with two whole dollars already inside.  Best present ever!  Or so he says now.  For weeks he's been telling me all about his various key hiding spots.  And how if a bad guy broke into our house, he'd never be able to find the key to open the cash box.  He was totally thrilled with how unbelievably safe his money was--all 19 dollars and 57 cents.  Until I ruined it all by pointing out that said bad guy could just pick up the whole safe box and walk away with it.  He was dumfounded.  It had never occurred to him that somebody would be able to actually open the box without the key.  Darn reality!

He still adores his cash box, though.  So I didn't rain on his whole parade.
Of course we had to use J's halloween costume as a photo op for those that wanted to try it on.  B was dying to get into it when she saw the other kids doing it.  She just needs a few years to grow into it.
Any of J's birthday parties that don't come with an anxiety meltdown are considered huge successes.  This one was a success.  Even though poor S is crying in the group photo.  Someone had just bumped her mouth, smashing her lips into her braces.  Ah, well, with kids you just can't win them all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rising Star

Apparently this girl has decided it is time for her to get involved.  She was front and center for all activities at a not-so-recent church picnic.  Where I though they landed a fabulous face painter.
She played on the volleyball team at school.  Where she almost learned to serve the ball over the net.  And where she was beyond thrilled to receive the spirit medal.  At some point during each game, each team selects someone from the other team to award the medal to.  She was in awe for days that she was chosen.
Check out that intensity.  I foresee lots of backyard vollying in our future.
S with the A team.  No, not that A team, the volleyball A team.  This A team doesn't run around helping the downtrodden.
In the midst of the volleyball flurry, she also decided to run for student council.  Treasurer--following in her big sister's footsteps.  I went to the school to hear her speech.  She was running against two other girls.  As I listened to the applause after each speaker, I began to despair that it would just be a lame popularity contest.  There was significantly more applause after the cooler kids spoke.  But S was a trooper and delivered the speech she had prepared, even though she was unbelievably nervous.  Hers was the only speech that actually pertained at all to the office she was running for.  I was proud of her.

And her efforts payed off.  She won the election and is now the hard working, dependable treasurer at her elementary school.  I think they chose wisely.
So we had a treasury party, honoring the long line of treasurers we now have in our family.
 And, as if we didn't already have enough going on, we decided to go ahead and try to get her Nanny McPhee teeth fixed. So she got braces. 

Two in braces.  One in preschool.  Goodbye expendible income.
But we sure love this girl and will be happy to see her snaggleteeth straigtened out.  I'm not sure how the expander will affect her smile, which has me worried ever so slightly.  Because I love her smile.  It was perfect.  And really, how can you improve upon perfection?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Robot Costume Tutorial

My big plan for this homemade robot costume was just to paint a box.  But Shaggy brought home a bunch of shiny blue posterboard.  Which made the whole project take longer and, well, look way cooler.

So, without killing you with the details, here is what we did.

We found a box more or less the right size and shape and cut out the bottom and arm and head holes.  Then we traced the box sides on the posterboard and cut it out so we could glue it on.  That was the part that added all the time--waiting for the glue to dry.

Once it was dry, I cut strips and added some metal brads to look like rivets and smeared on some metallic rub to give it a more vintage look (I got mine years ago at a ceramic shop).  Then we folded the strips over the edges and hot glued them in place.
The helmet was made from a Costco cereal box cut to the right shape.  We added styrofoam to the sides to help it fit a little more snugly.
The colorful patches on the costume are just paint chips that I stole borrowed from Home Depot.  I really did need 10 of the exact same shade of orange to help me with my home decorating decisions.  Really.  I also added brads and metallic rub to the patches.  I wanted the whole robot to have a fun/whimsical look to it.  The ears are also paint chips--cut, rolled and hot glued in place.  The antannaes are from one of those cheap headbands from a party store.  We just disassembled it and stuck them through the helmet.
Notice the nice toddler teeth marks on the styrofoam ball on the left.  Yes, baby B was really drawn to this costume.  I couldn't resist putting an out of order kill switch on the back of the helmet.  Just seemed so fitting somehow for my mile-a-minute boy.
I downloaded some images of guages from the internet and thought up some appropriate names for them.  Sugar level, of course, is directly related to miles per hour.  And the curiosity meter gives you an idea of how many words per minute to expect.  I printed them on plain paper, cut them out and double matted them with paint chips, adding brads and metallic rub to complete the look.  Never thought I'd be scrapbooking a costume, but that's essentially what I did.
J also needed to have an anxiety meter.  Something complicated and inexplicable.  Just like his anxieties.  And no robot would be complete without a control panel.  The blue squares are glass tiles from Home Depot.  I didn't borrow those, just so you know.  I am not a chronic shoplifter.
I added this little tag on the back, sort of like the model number.  Underneath, it had our last name and then industries.  But as I was erasing our last name, I noticed that I had spelled industries wrong, so I just erased the whole thing.  Anyway, you get the idea.  The little bot graphic is from designer digitals.  I used those a lot for the robot birthday party we had a few weeks after halloween.  Love that site!