A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

What’s ha-pinning?

What, me? NO! I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I would never…NEVER!! I SWEAR!! I mean, probably never… NO! There are FOUR LIGHTS!!! I’ll never crack so OMG JUST STOP ASKING OKAY OKAY OKAY FINE I DID IT I JOINED PINTEREST NOW ARE YOU HAPPY???

How do I feel about Pinterest, you ask? I hate it. HATE IT. In a weirdly irresistible way. Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventures? I despised those books. I would read them through once the way you were supposed to, and then I would go back, choice by choice, to read each of the other possible paths in a logical, step-wise fashion, until I had uncovered all of the possible permutations. Pinterest is one giant, frustrating, inescapable, Choose Your Own Adventure. Trying to take it all in is like, as my big brother so aptly described the internet in 1995, drinking from a fire hose.

As a blogger, I decided that I needed a Pinterest presence, so I joined, but I have composed a Pinterest Code of Conduct  to keep my usage under control:

1. I will NOT travel more than 2 layers deep from any 1 pin (if I click on a pin, and it shows me a board, and I click on another pin on that board, I will NOT go any farther).

2. I will ONLY repin those DIY or craft ideas I can envision myself ACTUALLY DOING in the foreseeable future. Or ever.

3. I will NOT repin a pin without first clicking through to the original link, thus saving myself from the embarrassment of repinning something like this

Water marbles

Screenshot of infamous “water marbles” pin.
©PicklesINK 2013

with the caption, “Water marbles! Crazy how a few kitchen ingredients will make these. Weird, I can’t wait to try,” which when clicked, directs you not to the instructions you are expecting but instead to an article decrying the whole concept as a video hoax.

4. If I try something, and it doesn’t work, I will comment on it to save others the frustration. (WD-40 to clean your burner pans? DOESN’T WORK. Just FYI.)

Signed ______________________

I encourage you to take the Pinterest Pledge too!

Having waded through Pinterest for a couple of weeks, following the rules I set for myself, I do have one amazing success story — yesterday, combining ideas from a couple of pins (how to make a skirt out of a men’s shirt and how to make a child’s dress out of an old t-shirt), I FREAKING MADE A DRESS FOR MOLLY.

My to-do list for this week included:

To-do list

To-do list excerpt:
– learn to sew
– make cool stuff
©PicklesINK 2013

Simple enough, right? I had been looking at tutorials for how to make grown-up tank-top/t-shirt/men’s shirt dresses and got all excited to make one for myself. Then I tried to wrap one of Ian’s old shirts around my waist and realized that for it to work, either my hips had to be a size XXXS or the shirt had to be an XXXL.

New plan: Dress for Molly!

Molly in dress

Molly in upcycled shirt(s) dress.
©PicklesINK 2013

Without further ado, I present to you:

How to make a toddler dress out of a child’s t-shirt and a men’s dress shirt.

Please note I am the most NOVICE of sew-ers so my sewing instructions will be vague and the terminology probably entirely inaccurate.

You will need: scissors, child’s shirt, men’s dress shirt, sewing machine, pins.


Child’s shirt, men’s shirt, scissors (not pictured: sewing machine, pins)
©PicklesINK 2013

1. Cut off the child’s shirt 1″ below where you want the skirt to be attached and cut off the men’s shirt just below the armpits or just below the pocket if there is one.


Where to cut child’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013


Where to cut men’s shirt
©PicklesINK 2013

2. Sew a gathering seam on the men’s shirt: Set your stitch length to a long setting (4 or 5) and sew a seam all the way around about 1″ below where you cut. Knot one end of both threads and then pull on the other end, sliding the fabric back on the thread to gather it. Gather it until it is the same circumference as the bottom of the child’s shirt and then spread the gathers evenly and knot the other end of the threads. If I’m not explaining this well, Google it or check your sewing machine’s instruction manual, but you probably know how to do it better than I do!

3. Pin the top of the men’s shirt (now the skirt) and the bottom of the child’s shirt (now the bodice) together with the outsides facing in to each other.


The inside of the dress at the waist seam.
©PicklesINK 2013

4. Sew this seam together. I tried to do this with a straight stretch stitch, but I don’t think I was particularly successful (it doesn’t really stretch) and still seams (heheheheh) fine. Now turn it right side out and admire your work!


Finished dress. PRAISE ME!! PRAISE ME!!
©PicklesINK 2013

5. If there is a pocket, and if you want to, carefully detach the pocket from the leftover piece of men’s shirt and reattach it to the skirt (Molly LOVES pockets, so this was the highlight of the dress for her).

6. Show it to everyone you know, either in person or through the use of social media, because you are SEW FREAKING AWESOME!!!! <—- see what I did there??

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me and this Pinterest thing after all.

~ karyn

Four lights

There are FOUR lights (Pinterest logo).
©PicklesINK 2013


Molly’s (last-minute) Crock-A-Doodle Birthday Party

Things got a little crazy around Molly’s birthday this year, what with March Break and my mom’s broken hip and all that jazz, so we didn’t manage to plan Molly’s birthday party until a month after her actual birthday. (Poor second-born children, always getting the shaft…)


“Happy Birthday Molly!” message on chalkboard
©PicklesINK 2013

I had glanced at the Crock-A-Doodle pottery-painting website a while ago and put it on the back burner, thinking, “Probably better for an older group,” but then went back to it and decided to give it a shot – Best. Decision. Ever.


Crock-A-Doodle logo on plate glazed with paint choices
©PicklesINK 2013

A birthday party at Crock-A-Doodle includes use of the party room for 1.5 hours, 1 piece of pottery for each guest to paint,


Some of the pieces from which to choose – plates and wands
©PicklesINK 2013

a tile decorated with the birthday child’s handprint and guests’ thumbprints, staff to organize everything and instruct the children (In fact, for older kids, they require the grown-ups to leave – “No, no, we insist! You MUST go and have a coffee and leave the chaos to us!”), and crayons and colouring sheets for children who finish their pieces early.


Ben hard at work painting his ice cream bowl
©PicklesINK 2013

The paint is all washable and non-toxic.


Paint palette with 6 paints and paintbrushes
©PicklesINK 2013

Once everyone is finished painting, you use the rest of the time for food and cake.


Molly blowing out the candles on her pink and purple princess cupcakes!
©PicklesINK 2013

Package pricing is based on 8 participants – if you invite more guests, you pay for each extra piece and if you have fewer, you receive the balance on a gift card.


Friends hard at work on their cereal bowls
©PicklesINK 2013

Once your party is finished, the pieces are labeled with the children’s names, glazed and kiln-fired to a glossy, food-safe finish, packaged, and ready for pick-up in a week to deliver to your guests as a “loot bag” that will last forever!


Finished “cat” tile by Emma
©PicklesINK 2013

The kids all had a great time and made some really lovely artwork. The time flew by – there was just enough time for painting that the kids (aged 3-6) didn’t get bored or frustrated, and then time afterwards for some snacks and cake.


More friends concentrating hard on their pieces!
©PicklesINK 2013

The staff were attentive and knowledgeable and kept things moving along. They were able to gauge the kids’ abilities and let the younger children do their thing while giving the older kids (and parents) tips like how to make polka-dots (you use the wooden end of the paintbrush, FYI). The handprint tile was a great birthday souvenir for our family.


Staff member helping Molly make her pink and purple handprint
©PicklesINK 2013

The whole Crock-A-Doodle party concept was a great fit for us. It was a perfect party for Molly, who loves doing any type of craft, as do most of her friends. For the last few years I’ve been trying to stay away from “treat bags” with lots of little things in them, so the idea that the item they painted became each guest’s take-home treat suited me to a T, and as an incentive to return Crock-A-Doodle throws in a $5 gift-card for each guest.

Finished products

Ben’s ice cream bowl and Molly’s magic wand.
©PicklesINK 2013

Finally, the recyclable tissue paper and paper bags within a reusable shopping bag that everything was packaged in was the sustainable icing on the cake!

Packages 1

Ben and Molly hold up their carefully packaged pieces
©PicklesINK 2013

The cake, by the way, was from Sobeys, which was also a great choice: The cake and icing are yummy, prices are very reasonable, and the bakery only requires 24 hours’ notice. Molly requested pink and purple princess cupcakes, and as you can see, we got exactly that!


Molly’s birthday cake/cupcake combination
©PicklesINK 2013

In sum, I would be all fired up to do another birthday party at Crock-A-Doodle – You might say Crock-A-Doodle is kiln it with this birthday party thing. All in all, Molly was pretty happy with her 3rd birthday party, and that was the most important part!

Handprint tile

Molly shows off her handprint tile (while making a very silly face!)
©PicklesINK 2013

~ karyn

Do you do birthday parties? What has been your favourite idea?

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The Rainbow Connection

I picked up a really lovely book a while back at the Grand River Book Store at the Five Oaks Retreat Centre outside of Paris, Ontario: God’s Dream, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams.

God’s Dream
Cover art by LeUyen Pham

It’s fitting that I picked it up at the beginning of February, Black History Month, as telling Ben and Molly about Archbishop Tutu sparked a conversation about apartheid and racism. Ben was shocked at the idea that anyone would think that people should be treated differently because of what they look like, citing examples of his friends at school who had different-coloured skin but were just the same as him. We also talked about Archbishop Tutu’s own experience of growing up in South Africa during apartheid and witnessing and experiencing the mistreatment of black people by white people, but always advocating for both change and forgiveness.

God’s Dream comes in both a large hardcover edition with a dustjacket or a smaller board edition; I chose the board book in the interests of durability. The language is simple and the pictures bright and appealing, making the book suitable for children from infancy to school-age. In 28 sentences and 15 illustrations, the book covers love, racism, ageism, diversity, apology, reparation, forgiveness, theism, and universality, delivering as its core message that we are all God’s children, worthy of love and respect, and called to love and respect one another.

The engaging illustrations depict cultural and religious diversity (sadly, as with so many children’s books, it is missing pictures of children with disabilities) and the universal message makes the book relevant to and suitable for families with any theistic worldview not specifically Christianity (or organized religion at all): You could read the story to a group of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish children, for example, and they could each recognize their faith’s core message.

God’s Dream ends with the message that when people fulfill God’s dream by loving one another, “God smiles like a rainbow,” and ends with a picture of a rainbow made up of children’s handprints.

Book illustration

Final page of God’s Dream
Art by LeUyen Pham

Ben and Molly immediately asked if we could do a craft like that, and I suggested that in the interests of size we try fingerprints instead. We started with rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton…


Rainbow-coloured paints in an egg carton
©PicklesINK 2013

..then took turns painting each others’ fingers with cotton swabs…


Molly painting Ben’s finger yellow
©PicklesINK 2013

…and stamped the painted fingers on the canvas to make the rainbow.


Ben stamping his yellow fingerprints
©PicklesINK 2013


Ben painting Molly’s finger purple
©PicklesINK 2013


Molly painting my finger pink
©PicklesINK 2013

Finished painting

Finished rainbow fingerprint painting on canvas
©PicklesINK 2013

The finished product was a complete team effort and is now proudly displayed on the playroom wall.

~ karyn

Have you read any particularly meaningful children’s books lately? What would you recommend?

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How to make 187 palm crosses without completely losing your…ooh, shiny!

Last Sunday was Palm (or Passion) Sunday in the Christian calendar, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where crowds greeted him by waving and covering his path with palm branches, and marks the beginning of Holy Week. Many churches distribute palm branches or fronds for people to wave as part of the worship service.

For our Palm Sunday service, I rashly volunteered to go looking for individual palm strips that could be folded into crosses for Easter. “Who will fold them?” they asked. “Oh, I’ll do it,” I said. “How much work could it possibly be?” *Cue evil laugh track*

After the Palm Sunday service, I came home with the bag of still fresh palm strips and I asked my good friend Google, “Seriously, Google? How hard COULD it be?”

Palm fronds

Bag of (purportedly) 100 palm strips. Actually more like 150 as many of them were made up of 2 layers stuck together.
©PicklesINK 2013

Google replied, “Mwah hah hah hah hah…!” but also helpfully directed me to some instructional websites and I got to work.

I found a lot of the instructions and pictures tough to follow, so I decided to try my hand at making one of my own. Please note that unlike the actual palm strips, the paper I used is blue on one side and white on the other so you see how the folds really go! The wider end of the palm/paper is the bottom and narrower part the top; if it’s really stringy at the top, trim it. If it’s extra wide (more than 1.5″), cut a notch at the bottom and peel the two halves apart to make 2 strips.

Paper palm

Blue strip of paper cleverly trimmed into palm strip shape
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #1: Fold the top straight down over the bottom at the height that you would like the cross to be (in this case, about 5″).

Fold 1

Fold #1: Fold top down over bottom. From bottom to fold will be the height of your cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle to start to form the first arm of the cross.

Fold 2

Fold #2: Fold to the right at a 45° angle
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left to complete that arm and start to form the second arm of the cross.

Fold 3

Fold #3: Fold straight back towards the left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm. The paper/palm should pass behind the cross.

Fold 4

Fold #4: Fold underneath to complete the second arm.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over.

Fold 4 over

This is what is should look like when turned over after Fold #4.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #5: Holding the cross together in the middle, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.

Fold 5 flat

Fold #5: Holding the cross together, fold strip at a 45° angle to pass behind cross from top left to bottom right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left (keep holding middle of cross together).

Fold 6

Fold #6: Fold from bottom right straight across to bottom left.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.

Fold 7

Fold #7: Fold up at 45° angle so strip passes behind cross from bottom left to top right.
©PicklesINK 2013

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.

Fold 8 and tuck

Fold #8: Pass top of strip over top right and tuck into where the strip wraps around the bottom of the cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Then pull tight.

Fold 8 and pulled tight

Fold #8 pulled tight.
©PicklesINK 2013

Turn over and trim excess to finish.

Finshed and trimmed

Trimmed, completed cross.
©PicklesINK 2013

Here are some of the real thin, front and back, in various sizes.

Work in progress

Completed palm crosses, front and back.

And here I am with crazy eyes having just spent the last 4 hours making 187 of them!!

Completed (with crazy eyes)

Karyn with crazy eyes and 187 palm crosses in a basket.
©PicklesINK 2013

It was strangely soothing, as repetitive tactile experiences go. When we delivered them to the church, Ian proudly declared, “Oh, it was easy! At least, it didn’t look that hard…”

~ karyn

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A Hands-on Valentine’s Day

This year for Valentine’s Day, Ian went all out — babysitter, fancy dinner, executive box seats for the Tragically Hip concert in Toronto, reservations at the swanky Royal York Hotel…not for me, mind you. This was all for work. I, on the other hand, chaired my first ever church committee meeting. But I’m not bitter. Not at all. Jerk. Is what I would call him if I was bitter, which I’m not. At all.

All joking aside, we don’t generally do a whole lot to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but he enjoyed being able to straight-face it at work when people gasped, “Isn’t your wife going to kill you for going out on Valentine’s Day??” And he did send me very beautiful flowers:

With lilies

My beautiful Valentine’s Day flowers!
©PicklesINK 2013

Sadly, I have found that lilies give me migraines, so this morning I performed a lily-ectomy and I think they’re just as lovely without them!

Without lilies

My flowers, just as lovely post-lilyectomy.
©PicklesINK 2013

On my end, I wanted to do some art with Ben and Molly for Valentine’s Day presents for Ian. For the last little while any time I’ve given Molly paints she has happily sat for ages painting her fingers and making prints, so for a Valentine’s Day craft I figured I would tap into and fully sanction that hands on technique! My idea was to make a fingerprint garden with a “Bee Mine” theme.


Ben and Molly’s Valentine paintings for Daddy.
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben was right on board and caught on immediately. I helped him with the stems and started him off on the flowers and he took it from there — “No, mommy, don’t worry. I can do it. I know what I’m doing.” After he finished his flowers I painted the bee on his thumb and we stamped that, and he took it from there, drawing the speech bubble for the bee, the butterfly, and the sun. Can you figure out Ben’s secret trick to drawing butterflies?


Close-up of Ben’s painting of a row of flowers, bee, butterfly, and sun.
©PicklesINK 2013

My independent-minded Molly, on the other hand (heheheheh) made it very clear that she wanted no help, so her version reflects her non-conformist nature! (Didja see what I did there with “nature”??). The “printing” on the easel, I’m told, says, “To Daddy, This is a garden and a bee, Love Molly.”


Close-up of Molly’s painting of a garden with flowers and a bee.
©PicklesINK 2013

Not to be outdone, I also did my part for Valentine’s for Ian — weeks ago I found the perfect card, bought it, snuck it into the house and carefully hid it, and just as soon as I figure out where, I’ll give it to him!


Valentine’s Day swag: My flowers and Ben and Molly’s paintings. Pretend that you can see my card too!
©PicklesINK 2013

I hope that you had a good Valentine’s Day, however you chose to celebrate (or not)!

~ karyn

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Molly has quite the ‘eye’ for art

If Ben is my intellectual, Molly is my visionary. She has a flair for the artistic and attention to detail that I find quite amazing. I talked a bit in my Santa letter post about supposed gender differences when it comes to fine motor skills. In my kids’ case there is definitely a Ben/Molly difference but the jury is still out on whether or not this relates to gender.

As early as a year ago, her teacher was marveling at her focus when it comes to crafts. One of the first crafts she did in her toddler program was a sheep – Molly’s was evenly covered in cotton balls and her teacher told me, wide-eyed, that Molly (under 2 at the time) had sat at the table for half an hour carefully gluing on cotton ball after cotton ball until she was completely satisfied with the end result.

She loves working in mixed media (aka “cutting and bluing”) and has an obsession with googly eyes. Here is the first piece she created when given a supply:

First googly eye picture

Mixed media art by Molly –
Googly eye arch
©PicklesINK 2012

That piece was from about 5 months ago. In the last little while she has developed a sort of a trademark – Can you spot it?

Googly faces

Three mixed media pieces by Molly
©PicklesINK 2012

Today while Ben was at school Molly decided that she would like to paint, so I gave her a canvas, paint and Q-tips as well as some glue and things to glue (googly eyes, jewels, sequins, wooden hearts, and “crumplies,” which are crumpled squares of crepe paper). NB – I’ve become a really big fan of Q-tips for crafts. In addition to paintbrushes they make excellent glue wands.

Molly mixed media 2

Molly with art supplies deciding on her first move.
©PicklesINK 2012

She started by painting shapes – a yellow “rainbow” (arc) and pink circles, followed by orange squiggles. This was all deliberate – she described what she was painting to me as she worked.

Molly mixed media 4

Molly paints a yellow rainbow and pink circles.
©PicklesINK 2012

She then carefully filled in the shapes with purple.

Molly mixed media 7

Molly fills in shapes with purple.
©PicklesINK 2012

She added pink and red “slides” (think playground slides) and then added a red jewel.

Molly mixed media 10

Molly adds a red jewel to her painting.
©PicklesINK 2012

At this point, she got distracted by another work in progress – a little while ago, Ben and Molly collected some fall leaves outside and I tried to organize a craft for Ben that was a bit of a flop. I drew a tree and suggested that he glue the leaves they had collected onto the branches. Unfortunately, it turned out that white glue is not particularly effective on freshly fallen (not dried out) fall leaves, and once they dry out they are really too crumbly to work with, so we abandoned that project. The picture has stayed taped to the cupboard door (It’s the best easel I’ve found!) and every once in a while Molly adds something to it (previous additions include the three hearts and a googly eye on the left).

Molly mixed media 12

Molly’s tree picture – a work in progress.
©PicklesINK 2012

She worked on this piece diligently for a little while and then asked me to take a picture, presenting it with a “ta-da!”

Molly mixed media 17

Molly showing me her picture – “Ta-da!”
©PicklesINK 2012

She had painted the pre-existing googly eyes green (“Ben will love this because he loves green!”), and added the rest.

Molly mixed media 16

“Ta-da!” New additions to tree picture:
Two painted hearts, one with eyes.
©PicklesINK 2012

After that she went back and forth between the two projects, adding bits and pieces here and there until she was satisfied with the finished products. Did you spot the trademark googly-eye, crepe-paper-mouth faces before? Here they are again!

Molly mixed media 21

Finished tree picture has 3 faces –
Can you spot them all?
©PicklesINK 2012

Interestingly, when Molly first asked for paint, she specified that she wanted every colour except green: “No green, mommy. I don’t need green.” I gave her the green anyway, and the only place she used it was on the eyes on the tree. Apparently her vision of her original project (the canvas – see below) had no green, and she remained true to that vision. In fact (and I’m probably reading too much into this now) the heart-shaped jewel was originally pale green and she painted over it in red, so there is absolutely no green on this picture – maybe this is her way of making sure it is clear that this was her work alone, completely independent of Ben?

Molly mixed media 22

Finished mixed-media on canvas
©PicklesINK 2012

If you’re still not convinced about both Molly’s attention to detail and googly-eye obsession, feast your eyes on what happened when she was left unattended with craft supplies for about 10 minutes yesterday:

googly eye sculpture

Mixed media paint and googly eye
egg carton sculpture.
©PicklesINK 2012

If you look very, very carefully, each googly eye has been affixed to the edge of the egg carton with identical-coloured paint with the exception of purple paint substituted in the absence of blue.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – my kids are nuts.

~ karyn

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Letters to Santa = In the mail!

Ben and Molly’s school held a Breakfast With Santa this weekend, which was awesome, except that even with their self-professed adulation of the jolly old elf (see exhibits A and B)

Ben in his Santa costume - Halloween 2011©PicklesINK 2012

Exhibit A: Ben in Santa costume
Halloween 2011
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly - Halloween 2012

Exhibit B: Molly in Santa costume
Halloween 2012
©PicklesINK 2012

…they both went super shy when the moment came to actually meet him! Ben sat on his lap and grinned but couldn’t talk and Molly wanted nothing to do with him at all.

They recovered themselves by the afternoon though and sat down to the important business of writing their Christmas lists and letters to Santa. Ben’s 3 Rs are coming along AMAZINGLY (thanks, Miss Heather!!). His reading skills boggle my mind. There is nothing he can’t read, and if he stumbles over a “tricky letter” (today’s example: the “c” in “scene”) he asks for help, nods, and then files the irregular rule away in his “remembering cap” and that’s that – he’s got it down.

Printing has been a bit more of a struggle. His fine motor skills have never come as quickly as the intellectual piece, and he gets frustrated when he can’t reproduce what he sees in his head (in this case, the letters) on the paper to his satisfaction (he also gets frustrated when I praise him for letters that he has formed that he doesn’t feel are up to par, but his perfectionism and the question of to praise or not to praise can be the topic of another post!).

I’m told that there is a sex difference at play – that little girls tend to master the fine motor skills more quickly. The chicken-or-egg part of that equation is still up for debate in my mind – Do girls progress more quickly because we give them more opportunities or do we give them more opportunities because they show more interest/get less frustrated? I will say that Molly is currently showing more interest in and patience for fine-motor-oriented crafting at a younger age than Ben did. Again, definitely fodder for a whole other post!

Anyhoo, his printing is coming along beautifully, when he can be convinced to do it, and he worked extremely hard on his letter to Santa:

Ben's letter to Santa 2012

Ben’s Letter to Santa
©PicklesINK 2012

It reads:

Dear Santa,

Does Rudolph really have a lightbulb for a nose? (Then, dictated by Ben and printed by Ian) –  For Christmas I would a toy Whiff engine, a toy Diesel engine from Thomas, toy Kevin from Thomas, and a Mighty n Mac from Thomas.

(Closing printed by Ben)From Ben

Molly dictated her letter to Ian:

Molly's letter to Santa

Molly’s Letter to Santa
©PicklesINK 2012

It reads:

Dear Santa,

How are your reindeer? I am excited for Christmas this year. I would like things for my dollhouse and dollhouse toys. (Santa brought her the dollhouse last year. There was some prompting by Ian for her list since she just kept repeating “I want Santa to bring me dollhouse.”) Or maybe you could bring me a surprise. I love surprises that are pink!

Love Molly

She adorned it with her decoration of choice, googly eyes, and a wooden heart. Her trademark is googly eye faces – 2 eyes and a mouth made of twisted tissue paper (again with the fine motor skills being in a different ballpark than Ben’s at that age) – but for some reason she couldn’t be convinced to give her Santa letter googly guy a mouth.

Then it was off to the mailbox for the big moment:

Ben Mailing

Ben mailing his letter to Santa
©PicklesINK 2012

Molly mailing

Molly mailing her letter to Santa
©PicklesINK 2012

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished!
©PicklesINK 2012

Now I can finally sit down and see about getting Santa to make videos for Ben and Molly. (If you haven’t yet heard of the Portable North Pole Console, check it out!) Last year I got the order of events wrong and Ben was very concerned with how exactly Santa knew what he wanted for Christmas when he hadn’t told him yet.

~ karyn

Have you/your kids written your letters to Santa? What’s on your list?







Life is a great big canvas

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.

~ Danny Kaye (1913-1987)

I picked up the raw materials for a craft for Ben and Molly a little while ago and have been saving them for a rainy day. The opportunity presented itself last week so I set them up and let them go to it!

Cotton swab (Q-tip) painting on canvas – materials:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Paint
  • Small white canvases
  • Egg carton
  • Painting smocks

Paint, cotton swabs, canvases and egg carton.
©PicklesINK 2012

I put a different colour of paint into each egg cup and stuck a cotton swab in each. The only instruction I gave to Ben and Molly was to use each cotton swab for only one colour. I wanted them to be able to mix the colours on the canvas while keeping them unique in the cups.

Molly painting a pink line.
©PicklesINK 2012

Molly, true to form, immediately picked the “pretty, pretty pink!” (With some urging from Ben – “Look Molly! There’s pretty pretty pink paint!” – There’s a bit of a chicken or egg situation when it comes to Molly’s love for bubblegum colour.)

Ben, painting coloured shapes.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben started with his favourite colour, green, and concentrated on making distinct shapes, one of each colour.

One of the things I find really neat about Ben and Molly is how close they are to one another and how interested they are in each other’s activities. I was wandering around tidying etc. while they were painting but snapped pictures occasionally of what I thought what their singular focus on their own paintings. I didn’t realize until I looked at the pictures on the computer screen tonight that I had captured two very typical Ben and Molly moments:

Molly watching Ben paint.
©PicklesINK 2012

Molly taking a break from her painting to watch intently as Ben paints;

Ben watching Molly paint.
©PicklesINK 2012

And vice versa.

Ben has always struggled with his fine motor skills (inasmuch as what he is capable of producing does not match up to his satisfaction with the picture in his head, which frustrates him), so drawing and painting have not generally been his favourite activities. He seemed to find the cotton swabs an easy tool to manipulate and he concentrated very hard to paint one shape in each colour. He was incredibly proud to sign his name to his finished product and wants to hang it in his room!

Molly started out painting directly on the canvas and then took the craft in a uniquely Molly direction and started painting her fingers and hands and making prints for a neat effect of layered multi-coloured handprints.

While watching Molly start painting her hands for a second painting, Ben said, “Oh no, Mommy! Do you see what the paint says? It says, ‘Washable’!” Thinking he had misunderstood, I said, “It’s okay, bud – that means it will wash right off Molly’s hands.” Ben said, “No, mommy! It’s WASHABLE! We have to be careful never to get my painting WET!”

The finished paintings:
Ben’s, above, and Molly’s two below.
©PicklesINK 2012

The colors live a remarkable life of their own after they have been applied to the canvas.

~ Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

I will be very, very careful to never get these paintings wet!

~ karyn

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I’m calling it a knight!

I come from a long short well, a line, anyway, of fabulous Hallowe’en costume-makers, ie. my mom, who as well as being a fantastic doctor and a very smart lady is also an excellent seamstress. (Seriously. How can I live up to that?)

Every Hallowe’en my brothers and I would each decide what we would like to be, and mom would make it happen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? Sure! Here’s your giant puffy brown felt shell that fits on like a backpack! Batman and Batgirl? No problem! Have an intricately sewn bat-logo and handcrafted button-up utility belt with loops and pouches for your tools and weapons. (Worn over a leotard and tights worn over a snowsuit. I did vow that I would never make my kids wear a snowsuit under their costumes unless it was ACTUALLY SNOWING). Devil? Okay, one red pantsuit, caplet, tail, and hood with puffy horns coming up!

Hands down, her crowning achievment though was the creation of adult-sized Teletubby costumes using toddler-sized patterns for a sailing regatta costume contest (We won. And immortalized the line, “La-la wants a BEER!”).

Anyway, when it comes to Hallowe’en costumes I have big shoes to fill. This year Molly chose a princess costume at the store and Ben decided that in keeping with the theme Molly had set, he would be a brave knight. (Molly has since changed her mind and decided to be Santa, but that’s a whole other story).

Ben and I looked online for costumes but I was unhappy with the shipping charges. A trip to the dollar store looking for a sword inspired me and I decided that I could make the costume myself, so I stocked up on materials and went for it.

Brave Knight Costume

Materials needed: 1 reflective car windshield sunshade, felt (2 colours), black hockey tape, and scissors.

©PicklesINK 2012

Step 1: Fold sunshade in half width-wise and cut into approximately t-shirt shape, curving down from the shoulders and widening slightly at the bottom. NB – All of these pictures show the costume folded over – the top of the shoulders is NOT cut and it looks the same on the other side.

©PicklesINK 2012

Step 2: Cut pointed strips from waist down with small spaces between them to form “skirt” of armour. Repeat on the other side.

©PicklesINK 2012

Step 3: Edge the entire costume with black hockey tape.

©PicklesINK 2012

©PicklesINK 2012

Step 4: Make a 2-colour design out of felt to be your brave knight’s symbol. I went for simplicity and made a shield, but other options include cross, lion, dragon, or anything your brave knight can think  of of which your brave knight can think. (That’s for my brothers.) I edged and attached it with hockey tape as well but glue would also work.

Ta-da! ©PicklesINK 2012

Add a black belt and weapons and your brave knight is ready to do battle!

I know I hit it out of the park this time when Ben came to inspect my progress as I was half-way through the hockey tape border. His jaw dropped and eyes widened and he gasped and said, “I LOVE it!” Now he has another project for me – he said yesterday, “Mommy, now you have a big job to do – make a dragon costume for daddy.”


~ karyn