Friday, March 21, 2014

Very Hungry Caterpillar Day

Yesterday (March 20th) was national "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day," in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle's beloved children's story.

We adore the book and the artwork (even used it as the theme for Jacob's first birthday party), so when I heard about the special day and saw that schools, libraries, and Carle-lovers everywhere were planning activities to celebrate, I thought we should join in and have our own Caterpillar Day! Jacob already seems to enjoy crafts and themed-activities (I'm rubbing off on him), so he had a great time.

I want to share what we did, in case you or your child love this story, too! These activities are geared toward toddlers (probably around 18 months - 4) and would be fun on any day, not just Caterpillar Day, so pick one or do them all -- maybe even incorporate them into your own birthday party plan?

We started the morning with some cuddles and reading time (the story itself and also his plush caterpillar "book" that just has simple images and key words). I read the story aloud and then had Jacob name and count items from the book. We also discussed items' colors and really lingered on the Saturday page (with all the food), as he loves to point out the pickle, the chocolate cake, etc.

Then we went about our normal morning routine -- playing, getting ready, and such -- and resumed Caterpillar Day at lunch time with this little surprise on his plate:

I made the caterpillar out of half a grape tomato, pickle slices (skin cut off), and shreds of cheese. Cucumbers would be a prettier (and healthier) option, but I knew Jacob wouldn't eat those, and green grapes would be healthy and cute but are a choking hazard for toddlers. He loves pickles, just like mommy, so it worked :)

I prepped the craft supplies while Jacob ate and played and talked to him about what we were going to be making later (but waited till after his nap, so that he was refreshed and happy). After he woke up, we did these little projects:

1. Color, Cut & Paste Caterpillar:

- free printable templates, found here
- background paper or card stock
- crayons
- scissors & tape or glue


Have your child color the caterpillar pages! They can scribble to their heart's content and even add stickers or glitter if you want. Jacob said he was done after some pretty basic two-year-old scribbling, but that was okay with me :)

Cut out the pieces. An older child may be able to do this (with child scissors), but I needed to do this step for Jacob. I handed him each piece as I cut them, so he played with them and attempted to put them together like a puzzle. 

Tape or glue the pieces onto the background paper. It helps to start with the last one (back end of the caterpillar) first. Again, since he's only (almost) two, I put the tape on and showed him where to put each piece, so that it would end up actually looking like a caterpillar! He enjoyed sticking each piece down and saying "bam" ;)  He was proud of the finished product, and I wrote his name and the occasion on the green paper (see above).
2. Caterpillar Necklace:

I found this on Pinterest, and the original tutorial for this adorable necklace can be found here.

- yarn or string
- construction paper or card stock (ideally in red, green, yellow, and orange (or purple)
- tubular pasta noodles (penne, rigatoni, etc.)
- white vinegar
- green food coloring
- scissors, hole punch, & glue


Gather your materials and dye the noodle beads (I used this tutorial because I hadn't dyed noodles before and the original necklace tutorial called for rubbing alcohol. I didn't have any and also wanted to use something safer! Using vinegar and food coloring is very quick and easy -- just allow a couple of hours of drying time before stringing the beads.) Scrap paper works great for this because you need very small amounts of paper; I just happened to have the green polka-dot scrap and thought it would be cute to include.

Make the caterpillar's face and body. An older child definitely could help much more with this part! I just pre-cut the circles (about 1") and made the little face (to match the book) while Jacob was napping. Punch a hole in each piece. 

The fun part! Have your child string the "beads." Start with the last body circle and work your way backwards to the head, putting a noodle in between each paper circle. Jacob struggled a bit with the stringing at his age, so I got each piece started and had him pull the yarn all the way through -- he still thought it was great! Tie knots at the head and tail after stringing, so that the caterpillar stays centered on the necklace. 

Admiring his work!

Since he enjoyed the stringing and struggled with the yarn, I grabbed a pipe cleaner and let him practice more "stringing" for a while on that. You could easily adapt this craft for toddlers and just make a pipe cleaner caterpillar instead of a necklace! 

There are tons of other cute activities out there, but a toddler can only do so much in one day! I just did a Google search and also browed Pinterest for TVHC craft ideas, and these two seemed both age appropriate and easy to do with items we already had. They both went over very well! Mom and toddler approved :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesdays

A couple of snippets from this past week:

Daddy was getting Jacob dressed over the weekend, and when asked what he wanted to wear, he said, "Jacob wear mommy's clothes...No, mommy do that." Silly boy :)
Nate had just asked me to hand him a couple of plastic bags for dog poop pick-up duty, and Jacob watched intently from the window while Daddy roamed the yard picking up the waste.
"Go outside pick up Avery's poop, too," he told me.
I replied, "You want to help Daddy?"
His response (while looking at me expectantly): "Yes. Need little bag first."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Birthday Preparations!

My baby boy turns two in about two and a half weeks. TWO. So, not a baby at all anymore? He's officially been a "toddler" since he started walking at 10 months, but before two, they're still kind of a baby, and I'm sad to let go of that. I can't believe how the time has flown.

I feel like I was just in the stage of sleepless nights, new-mom worries (is he still breathing??), endless diapers and burp rags, and spending every moment fussing over him, even though he didn't really do much. Any other moms remember how busy you feel when they're newborns but look back at two and wonder why that was? I think the lack-of-sleep clouds our perspective! And the practically full-time job of nursing doesn't help. I miss those days now, though. I look at him and can't believe he was ever that tiny, helpless, beautiful bundle.

By two, you're (hopefully!) getting a full nights' sleep regularly, but that's a blessing since you're so exhausted by the end of the day from avoiding catastrophes, moderating tantrums, cleaning up crumbs and sticky little hand prints, playing "cars" or "dinos," and trying to keep up with such boundless energy! It's tiring, but it's so much fun, and I'm in still in awe of each milestone, each "first," and each new word (or complex, matter-of-fact sentence) that comes out of his mouth.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'm going to cry on April 4th.

But on to the fun part of this upcoming second birthday -- the party!  I've planned several parties and events: our wedding, several bridal and baby showers, and three high school dances. But I have to say, kids' parties are the most fun! I enjoyed doing Jacob's Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party last year, and I've had lots of fun so far this year, too.

We're just doing a small gathering, mostly family and a couple of his best toddler buds. I can't help myself when it comes to the party-planning, though; I love designing and decorating things (hence my Etsy shop), so the party may go a little overboard for such a small group...oh well! We're having a Curious George party, since George is one of Jacob's favorite characters lately, and PBS's Curious George is his favorite show (he starts each morning watching an episode and drinking his "milky"). I chose primary colors that coordinate with the classic George books (red, blue, yellow, white), and I think the party is going to be adorable :)

Here are some of the fun things I've been working on:

1. Invitations

It all started with the invitation. I had so much fun designing it, and it became the inspiration for the entire party, as I think is common. Here's what I came up with:
Like what you see? I can create a custom invitation for you, too! Just see this listing in my Etsy shop. Please note that I cannot post this exact design in my shop, due to copyright issues (I can't sell anything with a character graphic since I don't own the characters). If you provide the graphic(s), however, I can design the invitation (I found this George graphic here, on a site with lots of free character images).

I had them printed on, and they turned out great! I love that Vista Print allows you to upload your own entire design, prints a full-color back if you choose (so I used the yellow chevron), uses a nice, matte card stock, and includes envelopes! This is not a paid endorsement -- I just like VistaPrint (and I also got a Groupon for it!). :)

2. Banner

My next project was a birthday banner. Buntings are super popular lately as decor for parties, showers, and holidays, so I thought I'd try to create my own pennant flag banner! I designed the flags to match the invite (and posted the design in my shop, here), and then I used blue card stock, little gold brads, and some ribbon to create the banner:

3. Chalkboard Sign

Anything "chalkboard' is also en vogue right now, and I've always loved the look of a chalkboard. I design a lot of "chalkboard-style" items for my shop, and it all started with Jacob's first birthday chalkboard sign last year. After seeing similar designs on Etsy, I thought I'd try to make my own "birthday favorites" sign for his party. This was the final product (and I've since sold lots of them in my shop -- a favorite design to do!):


I printed it at Walgreens last year (just like an 8x10" photo) and put it in a frame, but this year I'm debating about either doing the same (but printing at home on card stock for a more matte look) or printing it larger -- we'll see!

I want to make this a tradition, since I put a copy in his baby book and love the idea of having a "snapshot" of all his favorites, height & weight, etc. from each age! So, I decided to design this year's chalkboard with a border (also listed it in the shop), to match the invitations, banner, etc., and here it is:

I'm done with plugs for my shop now, I promise! I just wanted to link everything, so that it's easy for people to find my designs if they're interested in similar party items without the work of doing it from scratch! But I do have a few more party details to share that aren't for sale :)

4. Two-Year-Old Photos & Banner:

For Jacob's first year, I did little monthly "photo shoots" to get these adorable shots which became his first birthday banner:

Well, any mother of a toddler knows that those photo shoots get increasingly difficult at around 8-9 months, and are virtually impossible in the second year! So, I've taken much fewer "photo-shoot"-style photos this past year (I say that because I still take a million day-to-day shots of Jacob, as anyone who knows me can attest to and/or mock me for). I did do a couple at Christmas and some at Valentines day, but I wanted to make sure to do a shoot for some real, "two-year-old" photos, so that we could look back and remember him at exactly two! I ended up taking them about three weeks early because we were getting new carpet and I had an empty room with the perfect light and a white wall for a few days, but it was close enough! 

I used the banner above and some other Curious George props we had (since he loves George we had plenty, like books, a stuffed George, etc.), and he wore an adorable shirt my mother-in-law made for us! I'm so pleased with the results:

Isn't he a sweetheart? 

I loved so many of them that I wanted to make a photo banner like last year's, but just with the two-year photos instead of monthly shots. I may need to remove a few photos (I used 15 4x6 prints) because it's pretty long:

Here are some pictures from the process, in case you want to do something similar: 

All you need (besides the photos)! You could use twine, ribbon, etc., but I had yarn on hand.
It helps to lay it out and center the yarn before starting, so you know you'll have enough.
Cut extra yarn length if you want to tie knots to keep the photos in place, like I did.
Simply punch holes in each top corner of the photos and string them together, tying knots in each hole as you go.

5. Party Supplies

Finally, my designs and decorations are all planned and created, but you can't have a party without coordinating supplies! Here are some of the items I've bought to use for the party. They can be found at Party City and Walmart. I have a few more surprises up my sleeve, but I'll do another post of how it all came together sometime after April 5. And then I'll be whining about how I officially have a two year old. Crazy!

Kudos (and thanks!) if you've read all of this insanely long post :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesdays

Next week I will have to post something in between the toddler truths, but it's already that time again!

The theme I'm noticing lately in Jacob's funniest moments is that he anthropomorphizes everything. Everything is an entity to him right now; he doesn't act as if there's much difference between human, animal, or object. Some of my favorite examples from this past week:
One night this week we taught Jacob to say "Prost" while clinking glasses (we're bad parents, I suppose, but he already knew "cheers," so why not add the German version?). The next night, Daddy said, "Jacob, how do you say cheers in German?" His response (while clinking his water bottle with an imaginary glass in the air): "Cheers, German."
While dragging his rocking horse, "Henry," across the room, he barreled into his stuffed Tigger. He stopped and said, "Oops, sorry Mr. Tigger!" Tigger is apparently worthy of a title and capable of feeling, while poor Henry is drug around as if he were made of fabric, stuffing, and wood ;)
Body parts are always animate objects lately, too. His toes are "piggies," his belly likes to play peek-a-boo, etc. This little conversation with himself was cute to witness: ...takes a sip, and whispers, "'Licious. Jacob's tummy says nummy nummy, Jacob."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesdays

My little man certainly gives me plenty of fodder for sharing "toddler truths," as I call them. He's very verbal for almost two, and he keeps us laughing daily with the things that come out of his mouth. I plan to share a few snippets each Tuesday, so here are some gems from the past week:

When Grandma asked what he was drawing with Daddy's pad & pencil: "writing e-mail."
A couple days later, while holding his toy phone: "Jacob text Grandma e-mail."

...I'm obviously on my computer quite a bit, since he's obsessed with e-mails lately ;)

Me (singing): "Hush, little baby..."
Jacob: "Stop singing, mommy."
Me: "You don't like mommy's singing?"
Jacob: "like Daddy's."
Me: "Is mommy a bad singer?"
Jacob: "Mommy bad singer."

The sad thing? It's true, I am. But how does he know that already? :(