Highlights of 2011, my edition

The Associated Press and pretty much every newspaper in the country will be running year-in-review stories this week. The top stories of 2011 here in Alabama were the April 27 tornadoes which killed more than 200 people and left miles and miles of destruction and Jefferson County filing the largest municipality bankruptcy in U.S. history.  And yes, Alabama is heading to the BCS national championship game this year after Auburn did the same in 2010 after Alabama did in 2009 ... we own this game! Nationwide and abroad, the economy had 99 percent of us down. The devastation caused by the March earthquake/tsunami double-punch on Japan was unreal. 

But when one stays home, the world is much smaller. Here is my version of the top stories of 2011 ... 

Kindergarten ... Will started "real" school in September and I vastly underestimated how much it would change our lives. From getting him there on time five days a week to a whole new system of rules/regulations to follow, it was a big transition for him and me. But after about two months, we both got the hang of our new routine. Though, I will admit not expecting how much I would miss seeing Will. He's gone all day! I wish I was a fly on the wall and could watch over him. But I've just got to trust that he's with good people and he's a good kid so it's out of my hands now.

Parents Day Out ... Just because Will graduated from PDO, doesn't mean we've left the building. Joseph started his stint at AUMC PDO in January. The last couple of months has seen some crying at drop off, but he loves playing with his "peoples" Henry, Cash, Woodrow, Wales, Odetta and more. His class is full of the cutest kids! Now, I'm not a room mom this year but I am PTA president. Which is just a fancy way of calling me head volunteer. 

Back to work ... Crazily, I signed up for not one, not two but THREE paying part-time jobs in the fall. Plus a fourth really-big volunteer project. One job was really fun, a little stressful, but mostly fun — I was the substitute in the PDO nursery for six weeks while the real teacher was on maternity leave. They paid me to hold babies! The volunteer project is putting together the yearbook for Will's school. It's a big project but thankfully, I've got another mom to help pull it off.

Legos ... are just about all we do! I have lost track of how many sets we've put together this last week. Will had a Lego-themed birthday party back in April. We give Legos as birthday gifts to our fellow Lego-lovin' friends. They recognize us at the Lego store. Joseph loves driving his cars through the Legos and dumping them all over the place. So fun for everyone! (Except the dumping, I hate the dumping.)

Medical mystery ... for three weeks in September, the right side of my body slowly went, I don't know how to describe it, maybe asleep? (You know, that tingling feeling you get when your foot falls asleep). It started with two fingers and slowly spread up my arm and down to my feet. Then just as slowly, the condition reversed. I had our general doctor baffled. I made an appointment to see a neurologist but didn't go when my body started regaining feeling. The most likely explanation is that the numbness was caused by something going wrong when I gave blood two days before the symptoms started. I'm all better now so no need to worry. There are tons of people who get bad health news daily. I am thankful that this was not my turn.

Top books of 2011

It's no secret that I'm all about the books. To say we have a few is a vast understatement. 
Here are some of the more popular reads of 2011 as picked by my boys ...

"Stubby" by Marion Borden with illustrations by Art Seiden (one of my favorites). Not sure where this book came from ... it might have been in the big book grab box or the local thrift. After close to three weeks of reading it daily, Stubby had to go into hiding. Sorry Stubby. Copyright 1963. The book did bring some debate to our dining room table. Is it a sweet tale of a tractor looking out for the animals around him or the vast capitalistic machine intent on mowing down the little guy? You decide.

"Big Red Barn" by Margaret Wise Brown was also read again and again. It was a favorite with Joseph last year too. The classics "Good Night, Gorilla," "Goodnight Moon" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" were also on heavy rotation throughout the year.

"Sheep in a Jeep" by Nancy Shaw. I can quote this one in my sleep. Joseph has fun acting it out.

"I Took the Moon for a Walk" by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay was under the tree last Christmas. But it wasn't until about mid-year that Joseph warmed up to it. The pictures are wonderful and the text so relaxing. I love all our Alison Jay books. 

William is a little trickier when it comes to reading. He's well past the repetition stage. But there are a few that got a "read it again" request ... 

"Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cronin. The "Click, Clack, Moo" author does not disappoint.

"Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey" by Wallace Tripp. A thrift store gem from 1976, I'm glad I brought it home.

Now mommy too had some must reads for 2011. I fell in love with the "Hunger Games" trilogy. I've read all the books at least three times now. Looking forward to the movie showing in March 2012. 

Any reads of your own to recommend?


Merry Christmas 2011

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Christmas traditions

Here are some of the highlights of our — dare I say it — relaxing 2011 holiday season. I tried very hard to keep it simple for everyone. We didn't go to every party. I focused on decorating one room. We watched lots of Christmas specials — Joseph was especially fond of "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer" and "Polar Express" was a must-see for Will. I'm at peace with the Christmas cards being late. 

Traditions were kept and memories made. 

Gingerbread houses and handprint wreaths are must-do activities at our local library.

The boys helped decorate the tree. And while it wasn't perfect, it was PERFECT!

Baking with Nana. The Rolo cookies were very tasty this year. All I made this year were the traditional sweet rolls for Christmas morning. I'm very lucky that my mom makes my favorite treats like Chex Mix and Butterscotch Pretzels. YUM! 

Soon it will be time to take down the tree and put up all the Christmas boxes still sitting on the back porch. Here's wishing the magic of the season will stay with us well into the new year. 

On the tree

Last year I shared one of my favorite holiday traditions – ornaments from Aunt Catherine!

This year, most of my extended family loaded up in two cars and drove to Aunt Catherine's house for what we call "Family Christmas." We tend to get together the weekend before Christmas, so that everyone is at their own homes for actual Christmas. 

While it was great to see everyone, I also loved seeing Catherine's tree. Which, of course, is loaded top to bottom with her awesome ornaments. The poor tree was struggling to hold them all! 

Above is the ornament she painted for everyone this year. It's very special because that's grandma and grandpa's house. Which he built himself! I've got lots of memories playing in that house. It makes me smile every time I look over at the tree.

And here is some cuteness for the boys. They are going to have quite the ornament collection ready for their own trees. Not that I'm letting them have all of them!


Let the countdown begin!

Our advent calendar this year is a Book Advent Calendar. I decided on the idea last year after seeing it around the blogsphere. Which means I had plenty of time to shop after-Christmas sales and found even more at the local thrifts. Not to mention that we already had a ton of Christmas books in the house. It took two hours of television, but I got them all wrapped and ready to go for today. Looks like our elf wants in on the fun too.

This is a busy time of the year. Us moms and dads are already over-extended as it is. You might be thinking you don't have time to do anything cool this year. You're wrong! Here are four (free!) easy-peasy cool-looking ideas:

Make and Takes

A puzzle to put together, one day at a time ... Make and Takes

Skip to My Lou

Print, cut, glue snowflake countdown ... Skip to My Lou


I love how Santa's beard gets shorter ... Gluesticks

Inviting Printables

Another Santa! So cute to add cotton balls for the beard ... Inviting Printables


Felt Christmas trees

Two years ago, I spied beautiful felt Christmas trees on Creature Comforts. Last year, I made some. This year, I'm sharing them with you. 

I don't have decent photos or a full-blown tutorial, but the process is pretty simple:

I made a cardboard template to trace lots and lots of "leaves." Not sure what to call them. I curved the top to help the pieces lay flat when pinned with straight pins to the styrofoam cone.

Start pinning ...

Keep pinning ... and cutting because even if you cut out a hundred, it won't be enough ...

And finished. Decorate your mantle or wherever. Christmas robot candle optional.

For the two trees on the left, I used several variations of green to give them a natural look. I experimented with easy-to-cut squares for the smallest (and not surprisingly, the last to be made tree). The tree on the right I used just one color green and added pops of color for "ornaments."

Yes, you still have time to put this on your to-do list! If you make one, I'd love to see pictures.


If only it grew on trees

Will: "Mommy, how do they make money?"

Me: "They have big presses and special paper."

.... long pause ...

Will: "Do we have that paper?"

(Mom: "I wish!")


We heart Legos

We're all about the Legos here. I don't think that's a big secret. What is a big secret is the best way to store Legos. Type lego storage ideas into Google and you get 8 million hits. Whoa!

I think I finally found a system that works for us. What we had — one 34 qt. storage box that fit under Will's bed— was not working. With everything jumbled together, it was hard to find the pieces we wanted when we wanted. Especially the small pieces.

Way back I had organized the bathroom closet with plastic shoe boxes. But they were left empty when we added shelving with baskets above the toilet. Then I had an aha! moment. Three of the shoe boxes fit perfectly into the 34 qt. storage box. So I got another latched-lid box and a few more shoe boxes and set to sorting. Small pieces got lumped together, then bricks, plates, car parts and "weird" pieces. I guess it would be more PC to call them speciality pieces. But weird they are.

The new system has been in place about two months. So far, so good. The builders (Will and Chris) report it is much easier to find pieces. I've only had to do one major resort since. Joseph thought it was great fun to pour the minifig box into the small pieces box. Groan! We may have to get another storage box after Christmas ... there are going to be a lot of legos under the tree and the boxes are at capacity right now as it is. 

Now I was all happy with our system until the November issue of "Family Fun" arrived on newsstands. It got all us lego mommas talking. While I wanted to run out and make it right away, this momma actually did. Awesome!

Got tips on storing legos or other toys? Please share!


What are they?!

I briefly mentioned that I have a part-time gig holding babies at Joseph's school (yep, paid to hold babies!). I'm changing diapers and fixing bottles until the nursery teacher returns from maternity leave. I was worried about juggling several babies at once but it hasn't been nearly as bad as I expected. Yea me for taking on a new challenge and stepping out of my comfort zone!

The babies and I like playing with the nursery's crazy alphabet blocks. I build, they knock down. Whee! No telling how old they are or how long they have been in the room. Aren't the drawings just wild? Dog? Seal? I think that one's a horse. Do kids today know what a candlestick holder is or a cable car? The real mystery is that block in the lower left hand corner. What is that? A helmet? Futuristic pod house on stilts? Will flipped it and says it's a boat. Any and all guesses welcome.


Halloween 2011

Ninjas are very secretive. You won't know one's there until it's too late ...

Much thanks to Nana for putting together Will's awesome costume.

Joseph has been a little more difficult in the costume department. 
First the conversation went like this:

Me: "Joseph, what do you want to be for Halloween?"
Joseph: "I want Halloween candy." 

Eventually he got the "dress-up to get candy" idea and first said tiger, and then elephant ... now we have a lion costume which I would love to for him to wear. My Aunt Lenora made it for her son James originally and he's in college now! Will has worn it too. Thanks to Nana, we also have an elephant hat to pair with warm grey sweats. Whether Joseph will wear either costume come trick-or-treat time is anyone's guess. He did not want to wear a costume to his school party. He did not want me to take his picture the one time I did get him in the full lion costume. If he doesn't want to wear a costume, that's fine. I've got a generic Halloween shirt ready to stand in. Regardless of what he wears, he's bound to get plenty of candy.

Come on, who wouldn't give him candy?!


Halloween crafts I want to make NOW

I love Halloween. Chris and I have had some awesome parties in the past. Now we have the most fun taking the boys trick-or-treating. I would love to go all out and massively decorate the house inside and out but time and money are not on my side. I've still got a week so maybe I can squeeze in one or two of these fantastic DIY/craft projects ...

Martha Stewart

Must.make.these! Martha's vampire pumpkins

Scrappy pumpkins ... Mom on Timeout 

Glow stick lanterns!!! ... Lil Blue Boo

Adorable owl goodie bags ... Rock Scissor Paper

Dana's 10-minute spider web that will take me two hours ... Made

Skelly men ... Chez Beeper Bebe

Book pumpkins ... Creations by Kara

Craft Buds

I would love to have the time and mad skillz to make a dozen or more fabric pumpkins to place around the house ... great tutorials herehere and here

Easy peasy jack o' lanterns ... The Long Thread

Not so easy peasy but darn good-looking spider web table runner ... The Crafty Cupboard

DIY skeleton shirt ... Be Different Act Normal

Ghostie cozies ... My Paper Crane


Only thing scary here is running out of ink

Halloween is getting close. We've got a few Lego pumpkins on the mantle but that's about it. But these freebies will help me get ready. Hope you enjoy them too.

Alpha Mom

Monster Mash-Up calendar ... Scout Creative

Mini haunted house luminaries ... Just Something I Made

Everything you need to throw a party ... Skip to My Lou

Halloween snack bag toppers ... Blooming Homestead

A cool and creepy skeleton from 1875 ... Just Something I Made

Need cupcake toppers or stickers? Creative Mamma and We Love to Illustrate have the cutest.

Though my favorite cupcake topper is from Alpha Mom and pictured above. Light bulb: Use same toppers to make a fast and easy garland for mantle. Just cut, attach to ribbon, hang and enjoy!

Visit Tip Junkie and Family Fun for a gazillion more printables.

Don't forget the chevrons ... Two Twenty One

Coming soon, a post on all the Halloween crafts I won't have time to do!


So little time

If you visit often (Hi Mom!), you have noticed that things have been slow here on the blog. You know the saying, something has to give ... and this month it's going to be my creative outlet. Instead I'm going to be pouring myself into two part-time jobs on top of everything else I have going on. I've said yes a few too many times lately. I'm not going to stop posting completely, but it will be sporadic as I readjust my schedule.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got to make school lunches, get dressed and head out the door on my new adventure (They're going to pay me to hold babies! Yipee!)


Random Thoughts No. 19

Post office humor

Move over Mr. Cullen! (Check out the whole photo album. You'll see what I mean!)

I have finally started watching Mad Men from the beginning thanks to Netflix. I think it is only right that I wear pearls and iron clothes at the same time. Three episodes into season one.

I'm really proud of the kids that put out their student paper without digital technology. (Old news but I'm still proud of them.)

Will told me Monday that he likes school ... except for that one part (nap time). WOO-HOO!!!!!! I have been hoping to hear this!!!!! Drop offs have been much smoother too.

I noticed just today that Joseph's eyes are HAZEL! Like MINE! Chris did not think much of this discovery (mostly, he did not think much of how much I was making of this discovery). Family, friends and strangers all agree that the boys look like their daddy. And I'm happy they do. The Tutor men are very handsome across the board. But I like that Will's hair color matches mine and now, Joseph has something that matches me too. Happy Momma Dance!


Preppy 101

I have two faithful readers who I must keep happy by posting pictures of their grandsons. So these pictures aren't great (yes, we were rushing to get out of the house; yes, Will was not happy with me or the tie; yes, taking these made us late for school) but they are good enough for the grandmas ... 

I present Will in his first tie! So handsome!

Look, I got a smile and of course, brother had to get in on the action. 

This is their Mass uniform. Will's not a fan of the sitting still and being quite for any length of time so I'm interested to see how the kindergarteners did at their first Mass of the year. I'm praying for them and the teachers!


Music-to-go cup

Today I'm sharing a handy way to get more volume from your iPhone. 

Stick it in a cup. Yep, it's that easy. 

It's not Bose-perfect, but this technique gives the tiny iPhone speakers enough oomph to fill the kitchen with sound while I wash the dishes. 

I've been doing this awhile and I off-handedly mentioned it to someone who thought it was a brilliant idea. So, I figure maybe I should share it with a few more folks. Like you. 

I'm all about handy tips. What's your best one?



Will had his first "real" soccer game Sunday. It was fun (and funny)! Half the kids didn't know what to do, the other half ran the wrong way at least once. Will did all right; he got his feet on the ball a good bit. His team lost ... which after two practices wasn't unexpected. I'm happy to report that all the kids got to play, even the ones that didn't move. I'm disappointed that I can't say the same for the other team. But Will didn't care they lost. He had a great time. Just look at his face in the next pictures — pure smiles of enjoyment! 


"I go to school"

As of Thursday, Joseph is now back in school (half days, three days a week). It's officially a Parents Day Out program at Avondale UMC but I call it school because lots of real learning — academic and social — occurs behind those doors. At his age, it's nothing too heavy. I mostly like the fact that Joseph gets to learn how to play with peers and brings home the occasional handprint craft (love me some handprints!)

Classes were to start Tuesday but Tropical Storm Lee was not a light, quiet rain event. More like a "I'm going to pound you 'til you hurt" rain event. It was impressive. Much of Birmingham was without power these last few days. We were lucky. 

I asked Joseph to pose for a few "First Day" pictures and he plopped himself down smack in front of the door. I got three blurry shots and one halfway decent one before Joseph told me he was done. That's New Bunny in the picture. It was also his first day going to school. No waterworks dropping off Joseph. He knows the folks and where all the cool toys are.

Joseph is the oldest in his class and I'm sure he'll be teaching everyone a thing or two. His favorite things to do right now include echoing everything I say, dumping out Legos to get Will's attention and trying out his outdoor voice, indoors. He's starting to try and sing songs which is pretty darn cute. And he and Will continue to have an awesome big brother-little brother relationship. 

Someone asked me today what I was going to be doing with all my "free" time ... actually I'll be at PDO tomorrow as a substitute for the 4K class. YIKES! I'm hoping they take it easy on me!


And everything changes ...

NO ONE told how much life changes once your kid starts big kid school!

NEW ROUTINE ... Okay, maybe it doesn't change that much for folks with kids in day care. Monday through Friday, get them there by 8, pick them up at the end of the day. Now, instead of day care, you are dropping them off at school. But I left my part-time job (exactly) four years ago to stay at home. Four years of we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. Sure, Will went to preschool three days a week but it started at 9 and if you were a few minutes late, it was not a punishable offense.

Now, Will's got to be at school at 7:45! Yikes!

We need to leave the house by 7:30! Eek!!

I am NOT a morning person! Ackk!!!

Getting into the new morning routine is kicking my butt. Trying to do all I can at night — laying out Will's uniform (he's uber cute in it), picking out an outfit for me at least one level above PJs, thinking about what to pack for lunch. I'm trying very hard to go to bed early at night (HA) and wake up early (EVEN FUNNIER). Soon, Joseph starts back to Parents' Day Out three days a week which will complicate the routine even more. Also, two kiddos in two different schools means two sets of rules and how-tos and names and oh, forgive me, my head just exploded.

NEW FACES ... We've* had a good group of peers for the last three years. Now, everyone is scattered all over the city. Within our circle of friends, the kids attend at least eight different schools. It's hard to keep up with who's where. I miss seeing my mom friends at PDO dropoff. I miss knowing the names of every kid in Will's class. This is a great chance to make new friends (for both Will and I) but I want to keep the old ones too.

NEW WORRIES ... My mom called me out on this the other day. She knows I'm worrying too much about how Will is transitioning (because it ain't great folks! They've had to peel him off of me twice!). I do worry about Will because he's surrounded by new people and what if there's a bully and what if he can't get his belt back on after using the restroom and what if he gets frustrated and they don't know how to handle his frustration ... so on and so on. Then I calmly remind myself that his teacher has been teaching kindergarten for more than 15 years and certainly can handle whatever challenges Will throws her way. I'll admit it — I'm not happy with Will for not loving school. Heck, he doesn't have to love it. I would just appreciate not having a scene in the morning in front of the other kids and moms. Yes, it is embarrassing. Yes, it makes me mad. Then I'm mad at myself for getting mad and I get back to worrying. But he's fine at pickup. Tired but fine. He's learning new things and so am I.

We've survived one week of our big new world of kindergarten ... a question for the moms who have been here, done that — any other changes coming? I want to be prepared!

*I'm using "we" a lot because I feel like I'm going back to school too. I AM the one buying everything and learning the rules and changing the family schedule. Sure, it's Will's life but I feel that I'm on the journey too.


First day of big kid school

6:23 Will wakes up, asks "Now, can I go to kindergarten?!"

6:30 My carefully set alarm actually goes off

7:15 Take pictures of our little man ready for his first day of big school

7:20 Leave (early!) for St. Rose Academy

7:45 Will gets to the door, steps one foot in, I pat myself on the back for not crying then ... 

7:46 Tear up as his teacher has to drag Will off me as he cries, "I want to go home!"

7:47-11:29 worry worry worry

11:30 Hey Mom! (nothing to worry about)


Beds o' bunk

Whoa, looks like someone got new bunk beds! 

Actually, they are not new. They come to us from an attic in Memphis — my Uncle Ray once slept on the top bunk. Will was very excited for the change. And a big change it has been ... no more cuddling with mommy at bedtime because that top bunk won't hold me! Yes, I will miss it but it's time for him to go the $%&* asleep already. 

Joseph was pretty excited too but it was very clear after the first night that he is not ready for a big boy bed. He'll be rockin' the crib for a while longer. No rush. (Really folks, there is no rush. Several friends asked why we are ready to move Joseph out of the nursery ... we are NOT expecting. It just would be nice to have a guest/junk room to throw everything in and shut the door.) The bottom bunk is ready for Joseph though. He got a new quilt in the mail from talented Aunt Catherine. It's warm and cozy, just perfect for dreaming under. And it matches the "transportation" theme of the room. 

For now, the bottom bunk is great for group bedtime stories and yes, cuddling. 
Because Will's not off to college yet. Just kindergarten.


Crafts of summer

Crafting with Will can be ... dauting. If he's interested, he's all hands on deck, ready to participate. But once he's done, he's done whether or not the project is. He comes up with great ideas that require time to gather supplies and can be uninterested once they are ready.

Last summer, I planned a week of projects and got a lukewarm response. This summer, no such pressure. But we still happened to have some crafty fun:

Will spent a whole week making paper airplanes after earning this book from the MB library's summer reading program.

Experiments with making granola/trail mix were tasty.

Finally, some drawing action. Ed Emberley books rock!

I love this knight! Of course, his shield has a "W" for Sir William.

Joseph, on the other hand, loves to draw and craft and will sit for quite a bit playing with paints. Recently, this post about using foam sheets for stamping got me thinking. I cut up some heavy-duty styrofoam and let Joseph loose.

As Real Simple magazine would say, here's a new use for an old thing — I made a little handle for the stamp with a push pin. 

At this moment, the house is quiet. Both boys are hopefully having sweet dreams. Mommy's turn to play with felt and thread! Hope to have something to show you soon.


Here comes the bride

My friend Vivi's getting married! I'm excited for her. And excited that she has asked me and another friend to play design consultants for the big day. Oh, decisions, decisions, decisions! 

The another person, Kim, and I have not met so Vivi wrote wonderful paragraphs to introduce us. I thought Vivi did a spot on job reporting on me:

"I met Christina after she got engaged to Chris Tutor and moved shortly after he did to Birmingham in 2003 to work as a designer for the B'ham News, and she subsequently became my closest friend in the city. Christina was the brains behind the Young Journalists' Club of Bham. She quit working at the paper to be a mom full-time to her two really cute boys. She is constantly doing really creative crafty things with the kids, blogged here: http://www.prettylittlenest.com, and is the owner of approximately 5,432 Martha Stewart magazines. Christina and Chris got married at the lodge at the Birmingham Zoo — it was fall and everything had a fall leaf design and candles everywhere and it all felt very warm and intimate."

Her words about our wedding made me happy. Chris and I worked very hard to have a cozy event for family and friends. And yes, we do get a kick out of telling people we were married at the zoo. 

There is one thing Vivi wasn't kidding about ... I do have a quite a few Martha Stewart magazines. Case in point:

Of the MS Weddings magazine, I have 17 issues including the premiere issue from 1995. 

And these three special editions. All full of good ideas to share with Vivi. 

I better get busy doing my research!