Pumpkins. Paint. And a Toddler.

Jack loves to cut up his food. Butter knife, of course.

“Me do it,” he constantly cries. So overwhelmingly independent already and only two years old.

So, when we sat down to carve pumpkins one night, Jack was more than anxious to perform surgery. Unfortunately his parents do set limits. I decided he could complete his magic in other forms with soft, gentle paintbrushes.
For little ones too young to use a knife, but old enough to enjoy the fall pumpkin activities, here’s a few pumpkin painting projects to enjoy:

Craft a Painted Picture
Pick up the perfect pumpkin(s). Then stop at your local crafts or Halloween store to choose a few washable, non-toxic paints and variety of paint brushes. If the kids are above toddler-age and would enjoy painting a picture, both stores carry stencils or pumpkin patterns that could be taped on to create a unique design.

Use pumpkin carving patterns, some found at Martha Stewart online, as templates for painting projects. Just cut out the areas that would be carved and instead of carving, have the tot paint the areas.

One-of-a-Kind Ghosts & Spiders
A fun pumpkin painting activity for smaller children is creating a handprint or footprint ghost. Use white glossy paint for the body and black paint for the eyes and mouth. Paint one foot or hand and press against the pumpkin. Next, make small dots with the black paint for the eyes and mouth. Use leftover black paint to create a handprint spider. Simply paint both hands with black. Then apply, one at a time, with palms overlapping each other. Glue on googly eyes or paint the eyes with the leftover white paint from the ghost.

Paint a Jack-O-Lantern
Another fun pumpkin painting project is to have the little one paint a Jack-o-Lantern, as opposed to carving one. Form a reverse carved pumpkin by masking out a face on the pumpkin. Tape on the eyes, nose and mouth and let the tot paint all around.


Last Minute Costumes for Kids

Halloween is seconds away. For us, the party starts Thursday at daycare. I had all these awesomely unique ideas of what Jack would dress as. Originally thinking Evil Knievel because “daredevil” is my two-year-old’s favorite nickname.  I also thought I would go as a pregnant nun, my husband as a minister <gasp> and Jack as the devil. But true to form, I waited until last week to start looking for the tiny costume. And apparently Halloween is no longer in stores, it’s now Christmas time.

With a full-force pregnant brain, I panicked. Briskly browsed every store. Lunch breaks. Late nights. Sunday evening. Then my Mom called.

“It’s too bad you can’t use that tuxedo he wore for the wedding,” she casually said. (See photos of Jack in the tux here).

Um. Never thought of what Jack has in the closet. Since he’s known to daycare as the “Ladies Man,” why not dress him as one? Tuxedo. Flowers. Box of chocolates. Lipstick kiss.  Adorable right?

Here’s a few other last-minute children’s costumes I discovered (and what Jack’s wearing to trick-or-treat):

Handy Man

Jack’s Halloween night costume. He already has a pair of Carhartt overalls, so we purchased a Home Depot cloth work belt (less than $1) and placed his plastic Black & Decker tools in it. He loved it already. Finishing it with a bandana in the back pocket and sweatshirt underneath the overalls. Wa-la.


What kid doesn’t have a pair of overalls? Pair it with a plaid shirt, straw hat, bandana and work boots and you’ve got a mini-farmer. Pick up a tin pail at the local store to be used as the candy-holder. When out Halloween night, fill the wagon with straw and stuffed barn animals.

Homemade Skeleton (Family Fun)
Family Fun has a pretty easy cut-out to be placed on a black outfit. First purchase black sweatpants, shirt and black gloves (if desired). Should be easy to find at Meijer, Target or similar. Then, visit Family Fun for the creation process and images.

Football Player
Since Jack also owns a Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson jersey, we considered dressing him as a football player. Authentic to our favorite team. Add gray sweatpants – preferably white-stripped, - two black lines under the eyes and a football. Go a step further and purchase a helmet from the local sporting store.

80’s Rocker
Search the Internet for your favorite 80’s band then print onto a sheet of iron-on printer paper. Then, iron the image onto the front of a plain T-shirt. For girls, add a tutu, sideways ponytail, pink shoes, abundance of chunky bracelets and white sunglasses. For boys, add skinny jeans, dark cords or preferably stone-washed jeans. Electrify hair with hairspray and for a special touch add a blow up or toy guitar.


Cutest ever. Parenting.com featured this last-minute costume. All you need is an over-sized light blue sweatshirt, white felt, Styrofoam balls, Velcro and small other supplies to create the snowball. Check out how to create the tiny snowball at parenting.com.

In the future, I hope to have a “Jack” theme. Jack and Jill. Jack-o-Lantern. Jack Frost. Jack-in-a-Box. Jack and the Beanstalk. I could go on and on.


Baby Girl's Nursery: Peacock Inspired

I feel a little "nested." Now that we've completed the nursery trim, closet & repainting. And I've washed the clothes & blankets. Just needs decor. I need to unpack the bottles, boppy & other abundance of baby that she may use once or twice. Maybe then I'll feel ready. Or maybe I'll continue reorganizing every closet in the house until these next six weeks are up.

Below is the beginning of baby girl's peacock-inspired nursery: the crib blanket from Woodland Rabbit on Etsy. Where the inspiration ignited.

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He Paints His Step

The Jack Potty Training Experience continues. We started the journey months ago, but it already feels like years. Regressed a little. Gave up at times. Then after the pediatrician steered us back on course, we’re again in it to win.

When we started the trek, I discovered the difficulty of finding a unique stool to match my bathroom. We had fit the spare bathroom toilet with a tiny seat, so we needed a stepping stool that was durable and reliable. After digging and not finding a stoop to fit my desires, I decided Jack could create his own (see Stepping Up to the Job).

One night when Justin was traveling, Jack and I dressed in grub clothes and sunk to the basement for a special activity. Add a 2-year-old’s fascination with paint to an uncoated wood stepping stool from Michael’s and this is what you get. Hours of quiet concentration and imagination. I watched, never painted. It didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would. It was better. It was Jack.

Jack’s back on with potty training. He doesn’t use the big toilet, we caved and bought a little one. I’ll detail our experience in a later post. But although he doesn’t have a “potty” need for the stool, it’s served him well to finally reach everything he’s never reached before. Cookies. The TV. Cooking utensils. Books. To help cook. Or to snag anything we’ve purposely placed above his arm’s length.


Love Letters: Papa Never Forgets

Today features a  post to the “Love Letters" series. Capturing thoughts, advice and memories for Jack and his soon-to-be new baby sister. The series is randomly posted and sprinkled among my typical discovery blogs. All from family and friends tied to Jack ‘n baby. All assorted thoughts of love and hugs. Today is featuring a reminsing note from my Dad about my younger days. So many memories that I too will never forget.

Dear Jack,

I remember a lot about your own Mom as a little girl. When she was actually younger than you are now, I used to put her in a little bouncing chair, and carry her around in a back pack. One of the first times I took her on a car ride, we hung out with her in her bouncy seat on a bar counter. I actually was working there as a softball director. On another car ride, I swerved and braked for a little bird flying in front of my car, and I had forgotten to buckle down the car seat. She was upside down on the floor of the car. After I righted her, she was fine, and just asked what happened. She was pretty happy I didn't hit the bird. Another few years later, and she saw a bunny, her favorite wildlife animal. Then I hit it with my car (we think the bunny survived, as it ran away).

One of my earliest fun times with your Mom was in the back pack when I walked around Dunham Lake. At a high ridge, I lost my footing, and we slid down the hill with the backpacked. Leah smiling all the way. Little did she know we both could have been quite hurt.

So as you can see, Jack, as parents we do some pretty goofy things, but we do create a lot of memories. Nature and sports and your Mom were always connected with me, and I think that lives on in her and will trickle down to you in some ways. Bird watching, rock collecting, you will remember some of those things as you get older, but I will remember when you shovelled sand over your shoulder when you were trying to throw it on our beach.



Fun Fall Activities Without Apples or Pumpkins

I recently teamed up with Patch.com, an online source for local knowledge and news, as a Local Voice for the Brighton, Mich. area.  I’m excited to share my Tiny Mitten Secrets on a local level, as well as discover new inspirations through the venue.

In my inaugural post, Fall Beyond Pumpkins & Apples, I outlined five fall family activities that don’t include pumpkins or apples. Not that I don’t enjoy the two, but I believe there’s much more to experience. Check it out if your nearby, or just to follow me there as well. But, here’s a bit from my post:

Fall in Michigan is a reminder of the Mitt’s beauty and abilities.  A reason we tolerate the bitter winters and humid summers. Crisp air warmed with the escaping summer sun. Vibrant apple reds and bumblebee yellows painting the leaves. Pumpkin pies & warm cider.

To many, fall usually means pumpkin patches, apple orchards & cider mills. To me, it means keeping my fanatically curious two-year-old Jack satisfied with new activities. We’ve maxed the apples and cider, which the two of us can’t drink anyway (See No More Cider). It’s time to get creative.

Since not everyone lives in my cozy community of Brighton, here’s five activities that can be practiced anywhere:

1. Take a Nature Walk: Visit your local recreation area, park or nearest woods with trails for endless explorations. I created a Nature Walk Sorting Basket for Jack to collect autumn’s treasures. By filling a plastic pale with small paper cups, Jack was able to sort and stash his desirable findings. A shoebox or similar would do the trick too. The activity kept our walk short & sweet with his toddler obsession to gather & sort.

2. Visit the Farm: Every community has a petting farm. Well at least in the Midwest, I’m sure. For Jack, a visit to any zoo or farm is like Christmas morning. We frequent Kensington Metropark’s Farm on a regular basis. Now 34 weeks pregnant, I’m thanking the stars for the cool air.

3. Play a Game of… Football, Soccer or Disc Golf: In college, Justin and I frequented the disc golf course on a weekly basis. If you’re unfamiliar with disc golf it’s a hippy-style sport where players attempt to throw a mini-sized Frisbee (disc) into a hole (chained basket). Very similar to actual golf. But today, Justin and I aren’t as luck to hit up the course. Jobs. Kids. House. Dogs. We’re even minutes away from a very nice course.

But who said just because we have a toddler we couldn’t still enjoy a game. I know Jack would enjoy throwing a disc around. Most courses are located in woodsy-scenic areas. Perfect for nature discoveries. Better bring our Nature Basket.

If you’re not into discin,’ a game of family soccer or flag football could do the trick. Take a trip to a school’s fields, local park or other open space. There’s plenty of that in Michigan.

4. Spend an Evening in the Woods: Hunting in the fall is big game in Michigan. Men perched in trees. Trucks parked on wooded roadsides. Deer scampering in the approaching crisp climate.

When I was little, my Dad and I used to walk to a nearby cornfield during fall evenings as the sun snuck away. We’d situate on a large rock, quiet & still. As the orange sky began to fade, the deer would softly filter through the fields. It was magical. A picture painted in my memory forever.

Find the nearest open field, cornfield or wooded area frequented by deer. Take a blanket and camp out with the kid(s) until dusk approaches. By sitting still as hunters, you’re bound to catch a real-life view of nature’s creatures.

5. Take Family Fall Photos Fun: Every September as we prepare for Jack’s birthday, I’m reminded that we need to take our annual family photos. Fall offers the perfect backdrop for family photos. Grab your favorite photographer and take a nature walk, feed the ducks at the local park or throw leaves in your backyard. The fall colors do all the hard work. All you have to do is dress cozy and have fun.


Bear Room Final Phase: The Great Outdoors

Jack’s love of the outdoors is now living in his customized outdoors-themed bedroom. Black bears. Camping blankets. Rocks from Lake Huron. A tiny wood table. Fishing. And a cozy warm-by-the-fire feel. Fit for an outdoorsman.

We'd finished it just in time for his birthday. And he's been sleeping soundly & dreaming in there since.

Light switch cover: Amazon.com
Don’t Wake the Bear Wood Painting: Cabin Fever online shop. The original inspiration for the room remodel.

Bed, Trundle & Dresser, Enormous Stuffed Bear, Sheets & Blanket:

Gone Fishing Pillow: Cabin Fever online shop

Locus Wood Shelf (Above bed): Wood Shop on Etsy.
Deer Antler: Found by Justin in our back woods
J: Clearance at Kohl’s. Found by my Mom
Bear Figurine: Kohl’s. Birthday gift from Aunt Jess

Tin Wall Hangings: Cabin Fever online shop (link above)
Lake Huron Rocks: (see "Lake Huron Rocks")
Glass Jar: Michael’s
Bear/Cabin Bedside Lamp: Amazon.com
Turtle Night Light: Target

Valances: Our own creation. After measuring our windows, we purchased wood cut-to-size at Home Depot. We cut a mattress pad cover to provide a softer look and pulled fabric over it all, stapling it all in place.


Tree Wall Hanging: Purchased for Jack’s nursery from the Ann Arbor Art Fair, 2009.
Personalized Bookcase: Christmas present from family in Kentucky.
Tiny Toddler Table: Ikea, LATT children's table & 2 chairs. It was originally a white top, so we covered it with light wood contact paper. Chairs too.
Cherry Wood Rocking Chair: Passed from my Mom, to me, to Jack.
Turtle Star Glow Light: Babies R Us (Actually a baby shower gift). Every night it’s placed on Jack’s bed and he falls asleep to the amber glow, which turns dark after 15 minutes or so. Eco-friendly.
I adore Jack’s new room. More than the nursery. Starting to realize that each phase of his life is more thrilling & warming than the last.

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