Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crafting for the Non Crafty Mom

So here's the thing. I'm not super crafty. I know I'm not super crafty. Sure, I pin plenty of things to try with the girls, but we don't do much. And when we do, it's much more about the process, not the product.

But now that Madison has a year of preschool under her belt, she likes to process and the product. She likes to do projects. She likes the experience, but she also likes to have something to take away.

Beading? I can handle that. Play dough? Right up my alley. Painting? Sure. Basically, if the prep is light and it's focused on play, I'm in. We make and play with rainbow rice. We make and play with cloud dough. I'm planning on making this Frozen inspired silly putty.

Anything beyond that where you get to walk away with something you can hang up or play with? Ummm...yeah, not my strength. The prep alone kills me. Best leave that to preschool.

Oh, but preschool is over. Shoot.

I can do the free play, I can do the teaching, I can do the sensory stuff, but clearly, I need to step up my game on the craft thing and fill that void. Not daily, maybe not even weekly, but at least a few times a month I need to let this kid make something.



So I'm cheating a little. Just a little. Just enough to get me started.

I joined Kiwi Crate. I'd seen their posts on Facebook. You know, where it says which of your friends like things. Turns out a lot of my friends like Kiwi Crate.

By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. They did not send me a free box or pay me any money to talk about them. But once I knew how much I liked this, I did join their affiliate program. So if you join, I get some credit for that.

You know what? I like them too. Enough where I wasn't cancelling once my free trial was over.

We get one box a month, and right now, we only get it with enough craft supplies for one kid (you can ask for extra so two or more kids can do it together). Their age range is 3-7, and Reagan isn't at the point yet where it's worth it. Twenty bucks gets us a box containing supplies, instructions, extension activities, and stories that will make two separate creations. Usually one is clean and easy and one is a little messier and more involved. I started over the winter, and we had fun with snow projects, but by far our favorite is the farm project.

Now, if you are a crafty mom, this probably isn't the subscription box for you. I know some of my friends are already shaking their heads and saying things like "You know, you can pick up all that stuff at Discount School Supply or Amazon or the Dollar Store". Yes. You are right. You can search for a project on Pinterest, pick up the supplies, prep them yourself, and do a comparable project for less money.

Here's the progression of the farm animal finger puppets we made.

See all those little pieces of sticky felt? I would have to cut all those out. And make the bodies for the finger puppets. The prep alone would have made it a no.

Totally capable of doing all this herself, once it was laid out.

That was IT for clean up.

Ready for a show!



But for me, my time is worth something. I don't want to not do crafts because I know that I don't have the time to spend cutting out pieces of felt to the right size, scouring the Dollar Store for the right supplies, finding a place to store all the excess. If I'm going to do a craft with the girls, it's one that they can be involved in 90% of. Cutting out sticky felt isn't in their capabilities yet, and I don't want to spend my crafty time getting all finicky. Simply put, I would not have done this farm project on my own. I would have seen it on Pinterest, pinned it, and then when we were itching to dive into the craft supplies, I would have reverted back to something where the parent prep is low and the kid involvement is high. We wouldn't have done something like this. Would that have been just as ok? Sure. But looking at how much she loved this project, I feel like I owe her one like this a month. We got a month by Kiwi Crate subscription - you can get a better value by prepaying, but I like having the ability to pause when it looks like life is getting busy.

Some projects are messier. Some require more set up. Some are as easy as this one. What's cool is that with the two projects you get, you get a meter telling you what to expect. You also get a little "magazine" and directions for a few projects that you can do on your own. For an almost four year old, getting THIS much mail with THIS much stuff inside is the best.



For one week only, if you use the code GET10 you'll save $10 off your first crate, plus, you'll get free shipping.

If it can make a non crafty mom seem crafty a few times a month, I'll take it! Pin It

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Changing His Mind - One Bouq at a Time

So the other day I was chatting with Adam and a friend of ours at the pool while we watched the girls play. She was complaining (in a loving way of course, but still complaining) about how her husband never did anything sweet or romantic for her. Sure, he was a nice guy, but he wasn't bringing her flowers or anything. That reminded me of something I needed to tell Adam.

Me: OH, speaking of flowers, just so you don't get freaked out about who might be stalking me, I'm getting flowers delivered to myself next week.

Adam: Wait, what?

Friend: That is brilliant! I am totally stealing that idea.

Here's the background on flowers in our relationship: I really don't get them much. Maybe for our anniversary, maybe for my birthday, or Valentine's...but maybe. Last year, when Adam was telling this particular friend about our dinner reservation, she suggested he call a local florist and get flowers delivered to our table at the restaurant. He looked into it, and just about had a blood vessel burst when he heard how much a small bouquet would cost when you factored in delivery.

That's the thing. Flower delivery is expensive, and the man has perpetual sticker shock. When we were first married, he was working at a company, and was sharing a secretary with a few guys. On Valentine's Day, she asked Adam if she wanted him to order flowers for me. She was doing it for the others - in fact, she had their "important dates" saved in her calendar and was always the one to choose and order the flowers. Adam hadn't had a secretary before, the idea of someone else ordering flowers for your wife seemed almost like a caricature of the "big businessman", but hey, why not? One less thing to do for Valentine's Day, and obviously this woman had a good idea of what to get. She asked him if I had any preferences, and he said that I would probably like anything and to just get what the other guys usually went with.

I was happily surprised to receive the flowers on Valentine's Day, and thanked him profusely. He was glad I liked them, but a few minutes later said "yeah....I'm probably not doing that again".

It was a beautiful arrangement, but apparently, with delivery, this particular arrangement was far beyond what he thought flowers should cost.

Like, a good hundred dollars more than what he would be comfortable spending at the grocery store florist. And when he, recovering from his sticker shock, asked the woman who'd done the ordering, she shrugged and said "that's what delivery flowers cost!"

And yeah, he figured that if he'd be spending that much, it was going to be on something that had a little more staying power.

So I haven't gotten a delivery since.

And because he works from home, I'm not even the beneficiary of the I stopped at the grocery store on the way home flowers. I'm home. He's home. I'm the one who goes to the store. He hasn't actually said it, but I bet it's been on the tip of his tongue to just tell me to pick up a bouquet I like the next time I run out for diapers.

I've also had some really crappy experiences with online flower shopping. They're expensive. The sites are overwhelming. Then, we've had deliveries delayed (missing a grandmother's birthday!) and flowers that arrive looking shopworn and sad, and always, always smaller than pictured. I went off on one of these companies once and received, as an apology a five dollar coupon. It was not worth it to me at ALL to use this when I knew I'd be spending much, much, more for a crap shoot of what I got.

So a couple of weeks ago I got an email from The Bouqs Company offering me a free bouq. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I get a lot of emails. And only, like, fifty percent of them are spam. Or scams. Or insane. This particular guy wrote in a style that I really liked. You could hear him talking to you through the email and he was genuinely excited about his company.

Or insane. Crap.

The Bouqs - Premium Farm Direct FlowersI mentioned it casually to a friend of mine and she said "oh, was that the one on Shark Tank? That's a cool idea".



It was. And it is.

Forty bucks a bouquet - all in. It's online flower delivery - simplified. No searching through sort by highest to lowest price or wondering what the shipping and handling charge will add to the bottom line. Forty bucks - done. You go in, knowing exactly what you are going to spend, and can browse the site without even glancing at the price. They simplify the bouquets - instead of focusing on hundreds of options, they update constantly to current styles and focus on simple and lush. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, the website is minimalist and inviting. Roses, lilies, the good stuff (no "filler flowers" as Charlotte York would say).  Plus, they have all kinds of friend referral promotions. If you refer two people, you get a free bouquet. And they each get $10 off. 

They offered me one to check out. I went with the South American roses - the Dawn bouq. They are literally grown above the cloud line, on the side of a volcano, on the equator. I mean, these suckers are gorgeous.

Very easy. They were delivered in the morning, and had the instructions right on the box for optimal arranging. You don't get a vase, which for me, is actually great news. I don't need more vases. I was supposed to get a dozen roses, but when I opened, clipped, and arranged, I found I actually fourteen. Plenty for a nice arrangement.



I have NEVER seen a rose this color.


If you go with California flowers, you can literally get them the next day - less than twenty four hours from cutting to arranging on your table. And you get the whole "they were grown in the USA" thing. If you go with South America, delivery takes a little longer. Since, you know, they're coming from a volcano in Ecuador. But every bouquet they put together is cut on demand - no waiting period in cold storage (most flowers are in cold storage for over two weeks!) and it's a much "greener" process. No wasted flowers that were cut and never used.

Now if you can't imagine that a $40 bouquet could possibly serve your needs, you can double the size for another ten bucks. Want to triple the size? Seventy bucks. So, that would be 36 roses, shipped overnight less than 24 hours from cutting, for $70. Now I don't have a vase that would even fit that many roses. But hey, maybe you're fancier than I am. I started with the standard bouquet, because I really wanted to see what this flat forty bucks gets you. These are so stinking gorgeous that I can't believe I could have doubled it for ten more dollars.

They've got all that other stuff too. You can set up automatic delivery in a few different ways - monthly, by event (Grandma's birthday anyone? Valentines? Anniversary? Birthday? All those sneaky events!), and even as a random surprise.

Do you hear that men (if there are any) who are reading this? You can set up random delivery. So you get ALL the romance points for the "just because", with no sticker shock, and virtually no effort. HOW IS THIS NOT A WIN? Even my flower cynical husband can get behind this. He said "if this is for real, I might actually buy you flowers sometime". Coming from Adam, this is huge. The man is stubborn.

Best part? They made my house cleaner. Because I wanted to make sure that flowers this pretty have a pretty place to live.



Win. Win. Win.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Putting My Foot Down

A few days ago I decided I didn't care anymore. I signed up for a tennis clinic with no childcare arrangements set. My foot was down. I was going - the rest of the world could figure out how to get along without me.

Let me back up a bit.

Three summers ago, we joined the golf club. With Adam's frequent games, it made financial, geographical, and logical sense - at least for him. Reagan was only a few months old at the time, Madison not yet two, so we knew their usage would be limited for a while. They could go to the baby pool with me, join us at the restaurant, and gradually grow into it. But a big selling point for us was what I - a non golfer - would get out of the deal. And even though the promise of a close local restaurant and a beautiful pool I didn't have to maintain were nice, what I was looking forward to was the tennis courts. Finally, finally, I could play again.

I never "played" tennis in a oh, back in the day when I was competitive way, but I was a recreational player who loved the fitness, the fun, and the fact that you really only needed one other person. A social sport, but not one where you'd need to coordinate many players to make it work. I took lessons when we first moved to our town, and stumbled on one of my favorite ways to work out. I didn't make the effort to play over the winter, and let me assure you again, that I was never much good, but I enjoyed it in the summer. It was fun to meet up with friends and feel like you were getting some fitness in with your recreation.

Then I stopped - every summer there was something that slowed me down. One year I'd hurt my back, and my physical therapist advised against it. Too many hard stops and starts, too much potential for sudden twisting. One year I was newly pregnant - and then miscarried. I went from feeling physically off to mentally off, and I just didn't make it a priority. The next summer I was 9 months pregnant and then had a nursing newborn. The following year I was pregnant again, exhausted, sick, and caring for a one year old.

All valid reasons. When my teaching year ended, calling a friend and getting to a court just wasn't on my list.

But the summer we joined the club, I had a place to play. I wasn't pregnant, I wasn't hurt, and the courts were there whenever I was ready.  Sure, I had an infant and a toddler. Sure, I didn't know anyone well enough to pick up an impromptu game. But surely I'd find at least one time to get over there and see what I'd been missing.

I didn't.

Ok, fine. I had a nursing baby and a two year old. It was hard to just jump in. But that was OK. I was using the pool, and the courts would still be there the next year.

They were. I wasn't.

I planned to play. I really did. Now I had a 16 month old who was no longer nursing, and a 3 year old. I had a mother's helper. I could use her to go over and play. But...I still didn't really have anyone to play with. I didn't know anyone there who made use of the courts, and I was too self conscious to just show up. And all the clinics were in the morning, when Madison had her activities that I still had to go to. And when I did have my sitter, I was running errands.

I didn't play.

When fall came around and the courts closed, I was mad at myself. Two full summers of courts that were literally right there, and I couldn't get my butt over there. Was Adam using these reasons to not play golf? He had two kids too. He didn't know the ins and outs at first either. But he figured it out - fast. And he encouraged me to do the same.

The difference? He did it. I didn't. I made excuses. He didn't.

This summer - our third summer - Madison is taking swimming lessons (Reagan is not, which is a story for another day), golf lessons and tennis lessons.

Tennis lessons.

The sight of my not-quite-four-year-old, standing, posing happily in her skirt and top with her racquet, finally pushed me over the edge. My preschooler was getting to play before I was. What was I waiting for? When both kids were playing? When they asked me to play a match with them? Or maybe not even then! They'd be playing with each other while I sat there, taking pictures and instagramming how cute they were. Enough was enough.

When Madison was in her last lesson, I marched myself over the bulletin board and signed up for a group lesson. It's a morning - so neither child will be napping. It's a weekday - Adam is working. It's during my regular sitter's vacation - a sitter wasn't a given. I didn't care. I was done waiting for all the stars to align.

I got home and let Adam know, telling him I wasn't sure I had a sitter, but that I was doing this. I was tired of putting myself off. I didn't care if it wasn't a convenient time.

His response?

"Ok, we'll figure it out. I'm glad you're getting over there".

Well then.

As it happens, I did get a sitter. I found my racquet, my shoes. I bought some new clothes that (ahem) fit a little better than the last time I played. I'm a little nervous that I'll have completely forgotten everything, but I'm excited to get started on something for me.

I put my food down.

And that foot is wearing a tennis shoe.

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