Friday, December 6, 2013

Alternative Elf on the Shelf

I finally crossed off my list an item that has been on there for a year. Well, 11 months and 19 days. For Christmas last year, JJ got the Elf on the Shelf book, which I was so excited about, because I love the creepy elf and couldn't wait to do weird stuff with him all around the house. That doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean. I wanted him to take a bath in the sink with JJ's tub toys, live in a Duplo castle that he built, get tangled in the Christmas tree lights, etc. There was just one problem: I HATE the message of the Elf on the Shelf book! Part of our parenting philosophy relies heavily on JJ learning to do the right thing when we're not watching, simply because it's the right thing to do. We are trying  to lay the foundation for  his internal moral compass, and don't want him depending on Santa not giving him gifts as his motivation for acting appropriately. So when I read the book, I was disappointed that this was what all the hype was about. 

But we already owned the book, and I still wanted to make little Fisbee or Zart a part of our family, so I thought about how I could make it work. Then I didn't do anything for 11 months and 19 days. 

This morning, in an effort to work on my holiday to do list, I sat down with the book. I decided that I just wanted the elf to be visiting us on vacation, since he's worked so hard all year preparing for Christmas with Santa and his fellow elves. I won't be winning any literary prizes for this one, but I think the story I developed is pretty cute, and a great alternative to the text in the book. I did a pretty good job incorporating the pictures into the story, just so it wouldn't seem totally random. Then I typed it out, trying to match the shape and font of the text (because there were some passages that were ok, and I left as is). So, here it is and a few pictures of it pasted into the book. I used rubber cement, so if I think of a better line down the road, it's pretty easy to peel out and re-glue. Here is the story. The parts in blue are original to the book. Feel free to copy and paste if you would like. I used Calisto MT font to match pretty closely to the book. I think it's 20 pt font.

Have you ever thought about life at the North Pole?
How the elves can work year ‘round and not grow tired and old?
For hundreds of years, it’s been a big secret.
It now can be shared if you promise to keep it.

At holiday time
I take a long rest
from the toy making, 
wrapping, and holiday fest.
The North Pole is busy 
the rest of the year,
planning many ways
to spread holiday cheer.

When December finally
comes, we have done
so much work all year ‘round
that now it’s time for fun!

The first time I come to the place you call home
you quickly must give me a name of my own.

Once you are finished my vacation can start.
What will you call me-Markle or Zart?
Will it be Foddle, Criddle, or Clyde?
Fisbee’s cute too, but you must decide.

Santa has told me
your name and address, 
but I’m looking forward 
to learning the rest!

My friends all went to families to take their own break.
We’re excited to hear about the memories we’ll all make!

Will we go skating, to the park,
or the zoo?
I’d love to go anywhere as long as 
I’m with you.

When you are sleeping, I’ll continue to explore
the living room, dining room, kitchen, and more!
When you awake look around and see:
Who’ll be the first to spy little old me?

Maybe the kitchen, the bathroom, or den
is where you will find me, your special elf friend. 
I can hide on a plant, a shelf, or a frame.
Where will I be? Let’s make it a game.

And when you find your new friend, the elf,
Please be kind and keep your hands to yourself.

Everyone will want to see what I’m up to,
So please leave me in my place until they’ve all seen me too.

When I’m here on vacation, I really want to see
What you here in Charlotte do with your family.
For what are you thankful? With whom do you play?
What’s your favorite food? Do you pray everyday? 

I won’t say a word, I’ll just sit and listen
to all of your stories. I don’t want to miss them!

I’ll write down some details to share with my friends
When I’m back at the North Pole and my work days begin.

And the night before Christmas, my vacation will end.
I’ll go back to help Santa 
with my other elf friends.

I’ll be rested and renewed from my time with your family. 
Thank you for sharing your December so happily!

So blow me a kiss and bid me farewell.
I’ll fly away when I hear Santa’s bell.
Of course I will miss you, 
but wait ‘til next year.
When the holidays come I’ll again reappear.

Until then I wish every girl and each boy
a Christmas of peace and a year full of joy.

And here are a few pictures of how it turned out. 

While you may be thinking I have too much time on my hands, trust me when I say I ignored way more important items on my To Do list this week to do this. Now to run around like a mad woman getting the other things done! Cheers!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


This face says it all. IT'S MY FIRST DAY OF PRE-SCHOOL, YOU GUYS!!!

Our little man is officially a pre-schooler! He is going to Open Door School, which is attached to our church, though it is not a UU school. His teachers are really sweet and the staff is excellent! Ms. Sheila, the director, is amazing, and truly a standout in the profession. I can't wait to put her on speed-dial for all of my parenting/positive discipline questions!

He will be in class 2 days a week for 3 hours each day. They are doing a slow ease-in schedule, so he was only in class for an hour today, with 2 other classmates (3 didn't show up today). He, of course, started drawing with crayons right away, ripped off the paper that was taped to the table, and took it across the room to color while sitting on the floor. He read several books. He climbed on furniture. So, a typical morning for JJ. I'm looking forward to returning on Monday.

Here are several pictures before we left for school:

 (JJ stalling so we won't get in the car)

And...after school. All tuckered out!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Improving from the ground up!

Our basement has been a real bummer for me for a while. It is a hodgepodge of leftover and make-do furniture and rugs, but served several purposes: lots of seating for movie watching/lounging, a table for crafts/projects (we don't really eat down here ever), a play space for JJ, and storage for holiday stuff, old clothes, unused furniture, and craft supplies for me. The issue was that all of these things happened in the wrong places. JJ played and all of his toys rolled under the couch. I used the table mostly as a landing pad for tools and stuff that needed to be stored, so I usually craft at our dining room table upstairs. And all of our DVDs were displayed on shelves (which is a pet peeve of mine). I was done! After JJ's birthday party, I was inspired to give JJ and his pals more space in the basement (which would also free up a lot of space upstairs in the sunroom where we play the most). I have been referring to our style as "Mid-Century Toddler", since his toys are everywhere and I can't keep up. I wanted to relegate them to 2 spots in the house--his bedroom and the basement (he still has toys in the sunroom, but only what will fit in 1 bin and the TV cabinet).

The first thing I did was to either get rid of or store the toys that he doesn't play with or had too many pieces that he wasn't old enough to keep up with. I did that with all of our stuff, actually. Then I got to town on planning. I was inspired by this room on Apartment Therapy recently. It just makes me happy to be in there. 

So here are our before pictures. Please note that I didn't clean beforehand so you got a real sense of the chaos.

This is after Day 1. I painted the wall unsuccessfully with magnetic paint--don't know what that was about--and then successfully with chalkboard paint.

After a few coats of the chalkboard paint, I started to bring some items in to get a feel for the dimensions and whatnots. 

Almost done...


3 awesome shelves of toy storage! Love it!

 JJ testing it out.

This space feels happy to me! Here's our remaining to do list:

-Hang wire for paper art display above the chalkboard
- Make some art to go on the walls (me and JJ)
-Attach the board to the top of the bookshelves and cut it off on one side. 
-Spray paint rocking chair for JJ
-Finish redoing the octagonal sidetable (behind JJ's head in the first "done" picture)

I love how a room evolves even once it's "done." And I am pretty much obsessed with those IKEA rugs! I want to put them everywhere! 

So, who's coming over to play?

One of my favorite parts about this room is the budget! Since I used so much of what we already had, I only had to buy a few things to complete the space. Here's a breakdown:

IKEA Bookshelves: Free (already owned)
Board for top of bookshelves: $14.67
Big red rug: Free (already owned)
City road rug: Free (already owned)
Tent: Free (already owned)
Kitchen: Free (already owned)
Tan ottoman/side table: Free (already owned)
White octagonal side table: Free (already owned)
Table and chairs: $19.99 (IKEA)
Easel: Free (already owned)
Chalkboard Paint: $13.47
Paint Supplies: $10.91
2 IKEA diamond rugs: $79.98
2 IKEA cushions: $35.98 (I almost returned these, because I know I could find something cheaper, but they're big and cute. So they stayed.)
Wire for art hanging: $12.99
Toys: Free (already owned)
Poang chair for adults: Free (already owned)
Art (framed children's records and canvases): Free (already owned)

TOTAL: $187.99

For a completely new space, I love the price tag! And yes, it's pretty much all IKEA stuff, which I'm fine with. We've already spent way more time down there than usual,  It's a great classroom/playroom space with a lot of educational toys, and I can't wait for JJ to keep growing and learning.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy birthday, JJ!

JJ turned 2 on April 19th, which I just can't believe. While I feel we have packed so much love, happiness, and growth into these past 2 years, I also feel like they have flown by! How is JJ 2?!? He is such a sweet spot in our lives, and I feel so lucky to be his mommy.  We, of course, had a birthday party for him! It was a "Dirt Don't Hurt" party to celebrate JJ's love of everything outdoors and messy. We played in dirt, sand, water, and rocks. We blew bubbles. We ate. We drank (the pony keg will forever be a staple at JJ's parties. We love supporting our local breweries too.)

His 2 year appointment is next week, so I will update then on height, weight, etc. and probably a bit more about his current behaviors and funny stuff. But the cuteness and sweetness is off the charts. So is the self-coloring and running around Target like a crazy man. Here are some pictures!

Days leading up to JJ's birthday:

JJ's actual birthday! I ended up eating this cupcake and his party cupcake. Not much of a sweets man, I guess!

The party!!! JJ has some totally awesome friends!

Playing with his birthday presents!

Tattoo artist in the making. Extremely abstract work only.

(always playing basketball)