Monday, February 28, 2011

Glue: It's the Glue that Holds Our Family Together

I honestly don't know how much longer I can handle winter. All these days of either being bitterly cold and miserable outside, or of being suffocated and absolutely batty stuck inside. How I long for the days where I open the back door and the kids go off into our parking-spot sized backyard to play in dirt or hide things or do whatever it is they do. Without me. We have been getting out a bunch to museums and stuff. But as much fun as those trips can be, they involve packing a lunch, riding a bus and dealing with society. And I'm never more than about 10 feet away from my kids during any waking (and often sleeping, for that matter) moment. Calgon, take me away!

The other day at the height of battiness and without any real plans, I reverted to an old family favorite. It was actually Fifi's idea: "Let's roll up tiny little balls of tissue paper and glue them!" You don't have to say the word "glue" more than once for Vance to get on board.

This time we went for full animals, though we often do outlines of letters or shapes. Fifi chose one of her favorite animals, the flamingo, a picture of which she then found in a book to reference. Vance went for his current hot animal, the raccoon. To keep it simple, I just drew a cartoon-style face of a raccoon. I could have gone even simpler and just given him a bowl to pour glue into. His ratio of glue to tissue paper (which, by the way, can stick to paper with a poppy-seed sized drop of water) was roughly one gallon to one square inch. Yes, I felt a little bad for being so wasteful. But I thoroughly enjoyed having the kids stuck to something other than me for twenty minutes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fifi's Celluloid Adventure

My kids don't watch a whole lot of TV. I was pretty serious about the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation of "no screen time before age two"--at least for my first kid. You know, back when I used to think about things and make conscientious choices, as opposed to now when I am completely exhausted by having two kids. Now, I let my kids watch pretty much whatever they want as long as it doesn't involve killing, illegal trafficking, or in any way requires that I stand up.

Nonetheless, there isn't a whole lot of time for TV in our lives. And my kids have never watched anything over 30 minutes in length. But, I came to realize that most of my daughter's peers had watched full-length movies before. So, I decided maybe she would enjoy a full 90 minutes of the zombie-like state watching TV puts her in.

At some point during most weekends, my husband and I each grab a kid and split up in an attempt to give each of our kids some quality one-on-one time. I thought Fifi would love watching a movie with her mom as a way of enjoying time away from her brother. Suffice it to say, I was horribly mistaken.

Part of the problem could have been my choice of movie. I chose the hardly noticed 1997 film "The Borrowers" for one reason and one reason only: it was available at the library. Well, that, and the fact that Fifi and I had just read the original book together. I should have considered the movie was rated PG and not G. It simply was not made for little kids. But tons of little kids see tons of movies all the time that are not made for them and they live.

I set out a giant bowl of popcorn, handed Fifi a juice box and hit play. Within the first 15 seconds, and about every 15 seconds for the next 10 minutes Fifi said things like, "What's happening?" "Who's that?" "What are they doing?" "What just happened?" "Why are they doing that?" and then, as if for the first time, "What's happening?" again. Within the first 10 minutes of the movie I hit the pause button no fewer than 6 times. I tried to answer quickly or not answer at all, but it was just impossible. She didn't get what was going on. So, she was not enjoying herself and I, as you might surmise, was not exactly having a good time myself.

Finally, at about the 10 minute mark, Fifi got frightened. One of the borrowers was walking behind the walls. It was almost a little bit dark, and vaguely, barely, not really but perhaps for a four year-old, scary. She asked me to stop the movie. The end.

And so Fifi's entire cinematic experience began and ended in the amount of time it generally takes me to eat a sandwich. I guess we have to go back to filling our time with educational activities. Bor-ing!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Betsy Ross (Or, The Lady That Never Dies)

Betsy Ross is all the rage these days. Well, in our house anyway. The fascination started with a chance book borrowed from the library, but then evolved to my seeking out a more descriptive book from the library and finally, after talking about her life and sewing and oh my god she was one of seventeen children, we went to check out her house on President's Day.

Her house is open five or six days a week, so we could go anytime. But I actually shuffled around existing plans to go specifically on the holiday because the Betsy Ross House website had led me to believe there would be special goings on that day that would warrant coming specifically on that day of all days. If by special goings on they meant making paper bag puppets, then I guess they spoke the truth. If by special goings on, I envisioned parades and speeches and reenactments, then I guess the only one I have to blame is myself. Damn you, imagination.

We reread Betsy's biography before heading out. But there was little point in brushing up on our facts. Nothing about that woman is validated anywhere. Facts presented at the house completely contradicted facts in the book. And no one is even sure if she did indeed sew the first flag. The only thing I felt entirely sure of was the fact that Betsy Ross was dead.

The grave of a Betsy Ross impersonator.
(Betsy herself still resides in the house.)
As we toured the house, Vance kept asking where Betsy was. I kept telling him that we wouldn't see Betsy herself. She was dead. We could just see her house. This exchange happened numerous times. Finally, as we headed down to the upholstery-shop part of the house, Vance's understanding nod led me to believe he was finally convinced that there was no Betsy. We get down to the shop and who should greet him but a Colonial woman named Betsy. The two kids looked at me both confused and overcome with the sense they were witnessing a miracle. "I didn't know Betsy was still alive!" Fifi exulted. Thank you very much historical re-enactors.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Mommy, Can We Pleeeease Delay Our Gratification?"

In my earlier parenting days, I heard about the Marshmallow Test. In the 60's, a guy named Walter Mischel at Stanford conducted a study of a bunch of four year-olds. He gave each child a marshmallow with the instructions that they could eat the marshmallow right away if they wanted to. But, if they could wait to eat it 20 minutes until he returned, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. He followed up with the kids many years later and determined those who had delayed their gratification as children wound up with better SAT scores and healthier friendships, and were generally all around better people.

This notion of delayed gratification has been on my mind ever since. I personally wonder if there isn't a little chicken-and-egg behind the results (i.e., the kids who delayed gratification were generally more patient or followed directions well or had an inherent motivation that helped them both wait for the marshmallow and study extra hard for the SATs). Regardless, I often try to get my kids in the practice of delaying gratification because, well, good things often do come to those who learn how to wait for them.

That's one reason I occasionally do multi-step projects with my kids. They teach kids patience and perseverance. And besides, sometimes a decent project simply can't be finished to museum-quality standards in half an hour.

After a bender at A.C. Moore, I had a bunch of supplies to make magic wands. Wood that needs to be primed, painted, and painted again on the other side, is a great base for a delayed-gratification project. Over the course of several days, I primed, then the kids did two rounds of painting. After that was all dry, I attached ribbons to the star wand with a staple gun and glued wooden star cut-outs on top. Finally, I gave the kids free reign with a package of self-adhesive rhinestones.

Almost every day my kids begged,  "When will the wands be done? When can we play with them?" I placated them by listing the average SAT scores for students accepted into Ivy League schools.

But finally, the day came when the wands were done. And they were magical.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Gerbil Mother

So, I read the Tiger Mother book. I'm not going to bother sharing my opinions on it. If you've ever read even one single entry on this blog of mine, you could probably guess just how close my children are to performing at Carnegie Hall, and, by deduction, just how much I have in common with Amy Chua. But before I suggest the book was entirely aggravating and poorly written (Oh, have I said too much?), I should admit that I have discovered a little Tiger Mom within me. And now that I've met her, I'm determining how to coexist peacefully with her.

Obviously, my tiger is much less ferocious and omnipresent than Chua's. But, when my kids are not performing tasks I know they are capable of, I hear a gentle roar in the back of my head reminding me that my kids are capable and that I should keep my expectations high and push them to achieve. Then I take the birthday cards they made for me and tear them into shreds. Just kidding. My tiger is tamer than that.

But recently, I let my tiger out of its cage.

Fifi was putting her coat on for the six-thousandth time this winter. When she got to the part where she had to zipper it up, instead of trying to zip it or even pretending to try to zip it, she just whined. "I can't doooo it. This zipper's too haaaaard." That querulous moaning may as well have been a fattened deer gaily prancing before me, taunting me, daring me to take it down. And so, I tiger-mommed that little doe.

I told her that she could do it herself and that she would do it herself. At first, I calmly walked her through the steps. Then I left her to do it on her own. She struggled and whined, but after many, many attempts, she got it. I told her I knew she could do it, and then we set out.

Over the next few days, I stayed on her to do it herself. It helped if I pretended she was the mother and that she was showing me how to zip a jacket. (Not very Tiger, I realize. But, she loved it.)  There was still more whining and complaining, but I did not step in. We did not leave the house until she zipped her jacket herself. We spent a good amount of time standing around the front door. But eventually, she got it.

After about three days, it was no longer an issue. She zipped her own coat without so much as a reminder from me.

As the temperature is rising, she's been sporting different pieces of outer wear, all of which she attempts to zip on her own. (I'll admit, there is one hand-me-down with a tricky zipper. I give her some help with that. But it's okay. I'm not really a Tiger Mom. I just pretend from time to time.) I didn't cut my daughter down as she learned this one simple task, but I also didn't coddle her. By standing back and making my daughter struggle and eventually succeed on her own, I felt like I was letting my tiger show her teeth. Luckily, that was enough to get my kid going.

With that mission accomplished, I'm off to make crafts with my kids before they attend sleepover playdates where I will publicly praise them for banging in-harmoniously on a piano for as long as they want. Gotta go, I hear Julliard knocking....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the Radio Whoa-oo-oo

One day I was listening to my local NPR station, WHYY, as I am wont to do. Fifi spontaneously asked, "Mommy how does a person's voice get on the radio?"

At first I considered delivering a lecture about certain laws of physics, the history of communications and the life and times of Guglielmo Marconi (whose first name I had to "Gugle" just to know it). But the truth of the matter is I haven't the slightest idea. So instead, I gave her the vaguest answer possible mingled with lots of erudite jargon like "air waves," "microphone" and "sound." She had stumped me, that little vixen.

“You know what?” I finally said. “Why don’t we send an e-mail to the radio station to see if they would give us a tour.” That sounded good to her, so I sent the e-mail.

A few days later Fifi asked, "So when can I go sing in the microphone and be on the radio?"

I realized two interesting things at that moment: 1. I had misunderstood her question. 2. She had misunderstood my response.

But when the guy from WHYY e-mailed me back to schedule a tour, I thought it would be fun anyway. And it was.

At the studio, our tour guide, Craig, let my kids have a hands-on introduction to the world of radio and TV. As Fifi sat engulfed in giant headphones, he pointed out a bunch of things and gave us some information about how the place worked. It was odd to me how Fifi just stared at him blankly. The man then encouraged her to talk into the microphone. All she did was look at him like he was an alien. I couldn't figure it out, it was so out of character for her. Sure, all kids get nervous around strangers, but they don't usually get this particular look on their faces. It was only after we prepared to leave the room did I discover that the headphones were on. The entire time Craig spoke to her, all she could hear was the radio. Ha!

We continued on, looking at different control panels and electronic systems that confounded me. I felt a mite starstruck as we walked through the news room and I saw name plates which echoed the voices I hear every day on my radio. (I won't nerd you out so much by listing them...but I did see Marty Moss-Coane as she was talking on-air!)

We ended by checking out parts of the television studio. Our tour guide, who by now knew his audience so well, took out a camera and let the kids be on TV. They hammed it up a little bit, but the high point of their performance came in the form of a loving embrace. Two points! Not only did my children not embarrass me, they actually acted pretty darn great.

Since that studio tour, there has still been some talk of being on the radio. Fifi has been planning the speeches she'd like to deliver over the air waves when she's a grown-up. They mostly entail messages she'd like to deliver to one very specific person or another. I think she might be confusing the radio with a telephone. Did she learn nothing from this field trip?!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart Surgery

Ugh, if I have to look at one more friggin' pink or red or purple heart I think I'll hurl.

Er, I mean, Happy Valentine's Day!

Sorry for that little outburst. I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day, which I consider to be a purely commercial holiday. But, always in search of a theme, I have certainly milked the day for all its worth in terms of activities with the kids. It is kind of surprising how many different ways you can make, bake, smell, eat, paint, draw, cut, fold, hear or walk through a heart. I should know. Because I think we about did them all.

We did our last heart work Betsy Ross style. After having the kids use up the leftover Valentiney paint to color paper hearts, I punched little holes through the hearts and gave the kids yarn and oversized dull needles for sewing. Who knows? Perhaps this will be a pivotal project that sends one of my kids on a path towards becoming a heart surgeon. Or, perhaps, getting a swallowed needle surgically removed.

Each kid needed a wee bit of assistance, but mostly only to get them to sew the holes in order. Once Fifi got started, she was good on her own. She's had some practice with lacing cards, but the smaller holes and multiple layers of the heart project definitely kicked the challenge up a notch. I helped Vance with each hole, but he did the bulk of the work on his own. I then tied Vance's bow as a model for Fifi, who then tied her own bow. Might shoelaces be in her near future?

To quote Fifi, "I didn't think this was going to be a fun project, but this is really fun Mommy. Good job."

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Kids on the Bus Go Splat, Splat, Splat...All Through the Town

We don't own a car. In the city, living without a car is actually feasible. I don't want to give the impression that it is fun or desirable. But it is possible.

As a result of our pedestrian lifestyle (ahem), we have become pretty bus savvy. I'm now quite familiar with a number of routes and know how to get my kids and myself to any number of places via public transportation. The kids ride for free, so the three of us can go anywhere on one token.

There. I've stated all the benefits of riding the bus. (Oh, but I forgot the thrill of pulling the cord, looking out the window and on occasion having the entire back row of seats all to ourselves. And, the kids' favorite: yelling, "Back door!" when we're ready to exit at the back of the bus.)

Riding the bus with two young kids goes a little something like this: I anxiously watch the street for an approaching bus while collapsing the double umbrella stroller and keeping half an eye on the children who are running around like squirrels before a snowfall. If the bus is taking an inordinate amount of time, I then rotate among the following activities: calling Septa to ask the operator to determine the exact location of the next bus coming my way and surely mentioning no less than three times the precise amount of time (plus five minutes) I've been waiting; feeding the children snacks; mumbling under my breath with child-friendly versions of swear words such as "where the heckle is the mother-loving bus?!"; yelling at the children to stay where I can see them or get back on the sidewalk or yes you can sit on those steps or no, stop climbing on that.

The stroller, post-heave.
When the bus finally arrives, I flag it down with gestures reminiscent of a woman drowning. The bus door opens, Fifi climbs aboard and I yell, "First seat available!" approximately seven times as I heave the thirty-pound stroller up the steps and lift Vance up a full eighteen inches by his hand alone. I then attempt to get Vance safely into a seat, anchoring my legs as much as I'm able with the weight of the stroller upon one side of me, as the bus lunges forward and the force of its motion pushes me backwards. Once my son is settled, I usually endeavor to lift the awkward stroller full up above my head, in an "Operation"-style attempt of getting it between the metal rails without getting stuck on them as I try to stow the stroller above the wheel well. Then, finally, I begin the process of digging through my pockets to find and deposit the token (unless I happen to be wearing a glove and smartly stored it inside).

I would say about 75% of our bus trips go this smoothly. Those that don't are usually ameliorated by a kind older person who grabs one or more of my children as they hurtle down the aisle, in their Newtonian opposite and equal reaction to the bus barreling down the street. I can't tell you the number of times I turn to check on my children and they are in the arms of some person I've never met. I am indebted to the kindness of bus-passenger strangers.

Notice how the fellow passenger keeps
her hand out to protect Fifi.
Thanks to public transportation, the kids and I are able to enjoy all sorts of field trips that give us a much-needed reprieve from the house. So, despite all the horrible, evil things I've been known to say about Septa, the truth of the matter is, I value their services immensely.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Heart (Attack) Belongs to You

I have figured out why New Year's resolutions involving weight loss never work out. It's because everywhere you look, the entire month of February is basically regarded as National Cupcake Month. If you were lucky enough to make strides in January, you can [chocolate] kiss them all goodbye once February starts.

I hadn't been carefully scrutinizing the endcaps in book stores or display tables at local boutiques, but subliminally they must have gotten me. The recipes, stationery sets, boxer shorts, bookmarks and more, all bedecked with cute little images of cupcakes and chocolate. I have been absolutely cuckoo for chocolate lately. And I've been passing the bug to my kids. I'm generally not a candy-loving mom. But these days, my god, if it's not dipped in chocolate, I see no reason to eat it.

One more reason to loathe (or perhaps, love) Valentine's Day.

I had no idea how ridiculously easy working with chocolate is. You melt it. That's it. Pushing the buttons on the microwave is in fact the hardest step. Once it's melted, you simply dip things in it or pour it into molds.

First up: Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Rods. We went for white chocolate and heart-shaped sprinkles. (I heard they were lower in calories than regular sprinkles.)

Second Course: Nonpareil Chocolate Hearts. (They say pareils are really fattening. So, I went for the non-pareils.)

After that, I chose to mix things up a bit. That's when things got really ugly.

Instead of chocolate for the third course, I went with Cream Cheese Melts, which are made almost exclusively of fat and sugar. You know you're in trouble if food coloring is the most nutritious ingredient. Worse than that, they were incredibly messy to make and did not come out looking anywhere near as lovely as the ones in the magazine.

We mixed together cream cheese, butter and (gasp!) corn syrup. Next, we added a bucket of confectioner's sugar. We then kneaded it over another bucket's worth of sugar before dying it, rolling it, braiding it and slicing it. They looked horrible. My running out of red food coloring didn't help.(Well, there goes ALL nutritional value!) In an effort to enhance their face value, I shaped them into little hearts. That ought to help them remember which part of my body to clog.

My only goal at this point is to make it to March alive. Lucky for me, I hadn't made any resolutions in the beginning of the year, so I don't have those looming over me. Nonetheless, it is probably not the best idea to spend the next few weeks eating my body weight in chocolate and cream cheese.

Well, at least February is a short month.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Let's Talk About Symmetry

Once a week, we play school. We get together with another mom and her kids and we do all sorts of learning. The grown-ups switch off teacher role from week to week, but the kids are steadfastly the students. The teacher picks a theme. Sometimes it's timely like "Columbus Day" in October. Other times it's more organic like "The Five Senses" because I feel like it.

There's only half a Mike on the
page, but Vance uses the
mirror to see a whole kid.
With Valentine's Day--this holiday I never really celebrated until I had kids and realized what a craft goldmine it is--just around the corner, I started a recent theme with hearts. You know, folding a paper in half, cutting along half a heart line and opening the paper up to reveal a perfect heart with a rather conspicuous crevasse down its center. In thinking about where to take this theme, I couldn't stop thinking about symmetry. But then I thought to myself, "Why would you teach a four year-old about symmetry?" But then I thought, "Why wouldn't you?"

Kids are amazing! They will suck up anything you throw at them. So, why not immerse their sponge-like brains in all sorts of things? It's possible symmetry is not an entirely urgent field of study for a pre-schooler, but it does offer a new way of looking at things and a finer means of exploring what they see. Besides, all the cool kids are symmetrical.

After cutting out hearts, the kids used mirrors to make symmetrical pictures. This was best exemplified by the book "Another Magic Mirror Book" that my mother-in-law has held on to from my husband's childhood. I do lament the original "Magic Mirror Book" is not still around. It's kind of disappointing to start such a riveting story with the sequel. But we made do.

We then folded a bunch of things along their lines of symmetry. And at last, I got Fifi to tackle this pattern block activity she had previously shied away from that involves completing a picture by making a mirror image.

Was symmetry the most exciting lesson to date? Absolutely not. Will I try to teach my kids more mathy concepts because they fulfill some bizarre thematic musing of mine? Most likely. Will my kids still love me when they realize no one else's mother makes her kids do nerdy stuff like this? God, I hope so.

Friday, February 4, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Intellectualize 'Em

Like so many moms I know, I am working hard to keep my daughter from being eaten by Cinderella. I've been lucky in that most of her friends (read: the children of my friends) are not too doped up on Disney or predisposed to princess worship. Nonetheless, bits and pieces of pink puffs and sequins have seeped their way into my daughter's psyche and I can see how easily it could snowball into something beyond my tolerance threshold if I didn't keep it in check.

So what do I do? I do the same thing I do whenever there's any problem I need to address: I go to the library.

I really, really love the library. And I'm particularly lucky that our neighborhood branch has the most delightful, engaging and caring children's librarian I have ever known. (I am wracking my brain, yet cannot remember a single librarian from my own childhood. Meanwhile, my daughter makes gifts for Miss Elizabeth and talks about her as if she's a personal friend.)

Each time we visit the library, I check out yet another version of Cinderella. We started with the most familiar storyline in Cinderella by Hilary Knight. Fifi loved the story and loved acting it out. She, of course, was really big on the switch from rags to a beautiful princessy dress. Fine.
I didn't really have a good picture for this
post. But here's Fifi in a crown.

The next week, we read The Gospel Cinderella by Joyce Carol Thomas, wherein a young girl is reunited with her long-lost mother through their shared love of singing. Next up was The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. Amongst Native Americans, only the Cinderella character can see the Invisible Being because of the goodness in her heart. Most recently, we read The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo, featuring a boy (you read that right!) who transforms from lowly stepbrother into hero worthy of the princess' love.

Each time we approach a new story (and Fifi can't wait to tear into them), I remind my daughter that it's another version of the Cinderella story. We stop along the way as parallels become obvious and she giddily identifies the Fairy Godmother character in this version or the glass slipper symbol in that version. The tale is no longer about the wretched girl finding a man who gives her life meaning and makes her seem beautiful. Now, it's about reading, really reading: making connections as a way of deeply understanding.

I will admit, Fifi has yet to impersonate Cinderlad in her make-believe play or beg me to help her make a pair of Rough-Face moccasins.  But at the same time, it's been a while since she's asked Vance to be the prince who saves her and makes her beautiful in the end.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jim, the Other Groundhog

Wednesday mornings often sneak up on me. When I think about my week, I never seem to adequately plan for them. Luckily, shortly after a brief freak out of "What the heck are we going to do today?!" I was reminded that today was Groundhog Day. After that, the morning practically planned itself.

We got on the internet and learned a factoid or two about groundhogs, the Groundhog Day tradition and a group of old white men in tall hats who think groundhogs have their own language and that they can understand it. I told the kids about how the groundhog may or may not see his shadow and how that will determine the length of winter, more or less. Then we watched last year's video of Punxsutawney Phil deciding the fate of the seasons, since this year's was not yet available.

Would you believe there was no shadow involved?! None! He did not see his shadow. He did not even look for his shadow. There was no talk of shadows at all. You know what there was talk of? There was talk of groundhog language and a man who understands it. I was not making that up. Some guys pulled Phil the Groundhog out of his pretend tree home. One guy looked at him and then decided which scroll to read from: the spring is coming scroll or the six more weeks of winter scroll. What a rip-off! It's not Groundhog Day. It's Old Freaky White Guy in a Tall Hat Talking to Animals Day.

I tried to not let my disappointment determine the tone for the rest of the morning. Instead, we threw together our own Groundhog Day. And our groundhog did see its shadow. (Though it was totally forced. I had said the day was about the groundhog seeing its shadow, so I thought we ought to have it happen. [Also, shadows are a wee bit sciency, and you know how I strive to shove science at my kids.]) And at least one of us did have a conversation with the groundhog. But since that one of us is four years old, I think it's okay.

I present to you: Philadelphia Jim (Fifi chose his name), our groundhog weather forecaster.

Fifi, the announcer, is our own groundhog whisperer.

Jim, our groundhog, chose his scroll according to which direction his head faced.

Turns out Jim made the same prediction Phil did. It could be a coincidence. Or it could mean that groundhogs really are prophetic and that Fifi and that guy from Punxsutawney really can understand them. You be the judge.

Then we took the flashlights out and made some Jim shadows on the wall. 

In the end, our unplanned morning had it all: science, silly holidays, cut paper and glue, and a new family mascot. Hooray for Groundhog Day! Hooray for Jim! And hooray for an early spring!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who Needs Those Pesky Child Labor Laws?

Having my kids make whatever I want them to make is pretty sweet. Although sometimes I feel a bit like the art director of my own little sweatshop. Basically, I decide what I want made and set the time frame. Then I put my minions to work. The quality isn't always the highest, but the price of labor really can't be beat.

With Valentine's Day coming up, it's time to crank out some heartwork. (Get it?) This project might have worked better with an assembly line. I have considered having more children for that purpose. But, for the time being, I had to make do.

Day one involved rolling out the clay and cutting heart shapes with a cookie cutter, then adding a hole with a straw. The air-dry clay needed a couple of days to fully dry out. I had the kids sew shirts for Old Navy on those days.

Once the hearts were dry, I set out a Valentiny palette of pink, red and purple and had the kids paint the backs solid colors.

The following day I had to go to work. I cut painter's tape into various widths and taped up the front of the hearts with fun-filled uneven stripes.

Back to work!

I was impressed with how well the tape worked. I was equally impressed with the free labor. At this rate, I'm pretty sure my family could put China out of business in no time. 

Fifi thought we should give the hearts away to the people we love. For free. Is she crazy?! We could easily fetch about four bucks a pop for these beauts. Maybe even more if we stamp "Made in the USA" on the back. I guess it's time for a refresher lesson on profit margins and the bottom line.