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Summer Fun: Camp Crafts

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Greetings from Northern Michigan, Summer Friends!

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We are knee-deep in Michigan summer adventures, and Heidi and her kids just arrived late last night which means our kids are completely high on life right now.  I do believe I heard the last giggle after midnight last night, but we’re good because it’s 9, and they’re still sleeping. I repeat, it’s 9:00, and I’m sipping coffee without a kid in sight! The summer gods deliver. But they haven’t given us a fish yet.

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(FaceTiming Daddy)

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So we have this big Camp Bliss day planned for when our little cousins all come up for a family weekend. And since, when I have 100 pressing things on my to-do list, I like to take something of little priority and make it my all, I have put a lot of time and thought into making this day special. Like real camp. You know, Arts & Crafts Lodge, flag raises, t-shirts, theme songs, the whole Parent Trap gig. In fact, after I packed up an already overloaded van to drive up here and had Brett carry one more giant bag of supplies to the trunk, he took one look at the jewelry engraving tool and bag of feathers sitting on the top and said, “Now, what could you possibly need these for?”

“Not a word!” I snapped. “Those are Camp Bliss supplies, quite possibly the most important bag in this car.”

On the craft line-up are a couple of fun and easy camp-ish crafts that are super easy to implement at home, and since it’s mid-July and Lord knows there are a good handful of moms out there clawing at the walls and praying to the summer gods for inspiration, here’s a little hint. Get a whistle. Put it around your neck, tell your kids you’re a camp counselor and proclaim one random summer morning Camp Day. Make them do things they’d normally do like run through sprinklers and play tag, but call them “camp activities,” and they won’t know the difference. Throw some glue and feathers and beads on the dining room table, call it the Arts & Crafts lodge and put on the Parent Trap soundtrack. Bam. You’re done.

Craft inspiration of you need some:

Leather Camp Necklaces 

Leather Necklace Cording
Leather Medallions (we got our pre-cut ones at Hobby Lobby, but if you have a bunch of kids, Michael’s sells a big bag of leather scraps that you can cut into whatever shape you want. Or, these wood medallions work great)
Paint Pens

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Use the paint pens to decorate the leather charms, hot glue some feathers on the back, and there you have it.

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Clay Camp Pens

When I was a camp counselor, our campers made these every year. All you need is some cheap pens–the kind where the ink insert can slide in and out (we used these) and Sculpey oven bake clay.

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Pull the ink insert out and use the Sculpee clay to cover the pen shell.

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Make sure you leave the original hole in the pen for the ink insert to slide back, and keep the thickness of the clay pretty thin so it bakes and hardens.

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Bake the pens WITHOUT the ink insert for appropriate time (15 min. per 1/4 inch of clay. We baked ours for about 25 minutes).

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Let cool, slide ink insert back and then give in to the urge to make 100 more for all your friends.

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I hear kids stirring, and my coffee needs a refill.

Happy adventuring, campers!

Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts: A Pool Party Celebrating 9 Years

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I introduced a friend to Parenthood for the first time last night–which feels a bit like leading someone to a secret island where there is buried treasure you know will change their life. As if the show isn’t already emotional in that ‘Parenthood will GUT you’ sense, we watched it together–me, on the night after celebrating my first born’s 9th birthday; her, stretched across my couch, her hands resting on a small hill of a belly where her first baby grows. For three hours (yeah baby, three episodes in a row), I felt turned-inside-out, more than usual, from the very thing that tied it all together in that moment–Parenthood, literally and figuratively. I was inclined to be the obnoxious person who keeps interrupting a good show with condescending explanations and commentary–“It’s really like that, just wait and see”; “Uuggh, this part makes me cry–I’ve so been there.”; “She loves her kid so much–can’t you just feel it?”–but I didn’t because no doubt my friend already feels it, and also I try hard not to be that girl. So I stayed quiet, instead calculating the fact that I have been a mother for a mere quarter of my life now, but cannot even remember what it’s like not to breathe love every moment of every day for someone that belongs to me–at least for a little while. Mother time weighs more than real time, so let’s just say I’ve loved this child for half my life.

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Over the past nine years, I’ve saved a few trinkets that define her current year, stashing them in a big bag in my closet with the hopes of one day, years from now, stumbling upon it–maybe with her as we pack her bags for college or gather up her things for her first home or search for treasures for grandbabies–and suddenly remembering, “Oh my God! Zhu-zhu pets! You loved these! Squinkies! You had 100 of them. Shopkins–Lainey they were your world!” She grows and graduates from small windows of her life–quicker than ever now–while I pause to reflect on how much joy that little phase brought us. From the butterfly rattle to the Elmo doll, through My Little Ponies and Fur Real Pets, to Rainbow Loom bracelets and Shopkins. These little loves are reflections of the big loves that will one day embrace her and carry her into the world–the studies, the places, the people, the passions. But for now there’s charm necklaces and sticker books, and swimming and crafts. She wanted the latter two to team up for her birthday party theme, so it was “Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts” this year. A little from our 9 year celebration this past weekend…

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We set up three craft tables that didn’t require any mom help:

Design Your Own Water Bottle

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bulk neon sport water bottles, Sharpie oil-based paint pens

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Decorate a “Pool Tote”

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…and Make a “Pool Tile” Necklace

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I love using these “jello shot” containers for parties. They work great for making individualized kits for each kid. These had an assortment of glass beads, a pre-cut necklace cording and a clasp to tie once finished. Kids rotated stations on their own, and it was smooth sailing and mess free–just the way we like it.

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The big hits were the pool floats (pretzel pool float, pizza float)

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…and the money dive game. My dad brought a big bag of change and scattered it all over one end of the pool. We set the kids free to collect it all, and the top two amount winners won beach towels, and everyone got to keep their change. Winner strategy was definitely to go straight for the quarters.

Super easy and inexpensive party favors–dollar section packs of lipgloss; tuck one and a few pieces of candy in a little paper bag (Michael’s), seal with blue glitter washi tape and paint on some glitter waves.

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It’s our last single digit year…to many more charms on her necklace. xo

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Craftastic

Crafts just done went and blew up in our house this week. It’s been a craftastic preparation for the holidays, and I’m loving it.

I used to think the word “crafts” was dorky. Like, if Brett asked “are you doing crafts again?,” I’d clarify “I’m creating homemade splendor” as if “homemade splendor” was more cool. I downplayed my scrapbooking as “photo journalistic memoiring” and pretended I didn’t have a collection of cool stickers and zig-zag shears hidden under my bed.

But, I’m cool with it now. I’m a crafter. I like crafts. I smoke the craft pipe. I fly the crafty freak flag and admit that my heart does a little two-step when I enter the threshold of Michaels. I can only hope my kids will be droppin’ terms like ric-rac and vellum and battenburg lace while they’re still wee littles.

Just wish I could sew. I toy with a needle and thread once in a great while and pretend I know what I’m doing, but oh the joy if I could really sew.

I am a mad gluer though.

Exhibit A: The holiday freak flags that dangle over the playroom now…(pardon the mess)

Photobucket Tree Decal on Wall…totally love. Get one HERE and use code DDFREE088 for a free owl decal gift with purchase.

A little bit of ribbon, tacky glue, fabric and pinking shears. Voila.

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And likewise, another craft with little effort and perfect for the Thanksgiving table…

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Our Thankful banner. Fabric remnants, cut and glued onto stiff felt, trimmed with lace (yup, glue there too), soft felt letters appliqued (oh, who am I kidding…glued there too) and um, glued again to ribbon.

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Table’s already set for our annual neighbor Thanksgiving pajama breakfast, not because I’m so put together and prepared but because the house is such a mess and I’m so behind, I needed something pretty that would inspire me to put the rest back together.

Super easy and inexpensive homemade holiday gift: Button Napkin Rings.

We made ours for our Thanksgiving table this year. Unfinished napkin rings from craft store (you can get a bag of four for a couple dollars), spraypainted and, yes, glued with vintage-looking buttons.

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Lainey had fun helping. These would look lovely wrapped with cloth napkins and tied with rafia for a gift, or keep and use for your own table like so:

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Place settings this year are the trusty old kindergarten craftastic pinecone turkeys.

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We made eight of them yesterday, and Lainey named them all. In no particular order, we have Turkey Dan, Lappie, Little Dan, Little Lappie, Yahkie, Lotsapew, Chili and Dookie. Yes Dookie. She named ’em, not me.

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This wouldn’t be completely craftastic if we didn’t throw in a couple more, so hang on. Although our town’s tree lighting is this Monday (wahoo…come down to Third Street, Neapolitans!) and our official family tree ceremony is next week, we jumped the gun just a teensy bit on our fireplace.

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Mittens serve dual purpose of advent calendar (countown to Christmas…whatever you call it) as you fill each one with a couple treats and pull them off one by one with each day in December.

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Toddler mittens in the dollar bin at the check-out in Joanns plus 2 yards of gold cording plus mini clothespins for a grand total of twelve dollah, no hollah.

Last two…

Material plus felt plus frame plus Nella letting me borrow her tiny little hand to trace equals fun kids table decoration.

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…and another great easy Christmas gift. Unfinished wood tray ($5, Joanns), spray paint and creative toddler…

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Add a fun mug, some favorite coffee, a doily…what have you…wrap in celophane, and you have a pretty gift for coffee/tea lovers. We use trays all the time. I love to serve company on them, and this one’s extra special because it bears Lainey’s smiley faces.

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Before I wish you Happy Friday…

For all those that commented on the beach pictures last post, here’s your chance to come visit. In case you haven’t noticed, Poppa’s vacation rental homes has a button up on the sidebar. The homes are entirely dreamy…lots of bedrooms, pool, hot tub, garden nooks for morning coffee. Anyone in the market for a getaway, they’re offering a 25% discount until December 25 (and any other time, 10% off to anyone who mentions Enjoying the Small Things).

I’ve also updated the F.A.Q. tab on top and will try to add to it as common questions come up.

Also, voting for The Bump’s Best Blog award ends Tuesday. How awesome would it be to have “Special Needs” category win…to remind the world that beauty and joy abound within the households of families who may happen to include a child with special needs? Please help us share this message of inclusion. Click HERE. (you have to scroll down to vote)

And a few from Nella’s outside therapy session this week:

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the tamborine, her favorite toy.

Have a fantastic weekend. Or if you feel really crazy…get craftastic.

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