Sunday, January 27, 2013


Anyone who knows ZoKo at all knows Rottie. You've been pounced by him, pinned by him, hugged by him, and licked by him. And everyone knows how great his tail wags are and how perfect his ears are for sopping up wet tears. Rottie has been with ZoKo for around 7 years now, and has seen her through many things, from nightmares to scary movies, to trips to Colorado and my own wedding in Arkansas. He's curled up in her arms every night and reading books with her every day, without fail... This, of course, takes its toll on a dog, even a stuffed one. He's faded and lighter in color than he used to be. His collar is still hanging on by a thread in one place and has become a leash. One ear has a hole, and the other has been sewn up. He's lost a few inches in height from matted stuffing and multiple washings... But all these things take place over time, day by day. You never really notice it much, it's just part of who he is. He calls them "love marks", no regrets there...

So what do you do, as a mommy, when you find Rottie's twin at a thrift shop for $1.48? You call Rottie up (he's waiting in the car with everyone else, seeing as you ran in solo), and ask him if he'd be willing to let his brother come home with him. The resounding "yes" bark can be heard quite clearly and thus you head for check out, right?... Wiley is Rottie's identical twin brother, same manufacturer, same age, maybe even the same lot number (Rottie's tag is faded past recognition, so you can't even tell it ever had ink on it). Wiley, however, has led a much different life. He looks brand new. Fur completely unmatted, unfaded. Ears still held in place by that one lonesome stitch. Collar immaculate and shiny. The only thing that shows his age is a slightly yellowed tag. Yes, yellowed. Not faded. Not ruffled. Yellowed. This boy has spent at least 7 years sitting on a shelf, almost untouched...

I'm not saying that's always a bad thing, some people view their stuffed animals as something pretty to look at. It's just a foreign concept to us. Any time you see us out of the house, I can promise you there are at least four critters in the car waiting for our return. They go for rides, snuggle for books, cuddle for movies, and give tail wags and licks if you're down. They pounce and laugh and roll over and beg. That's just how they are, and I wouldn't change it for the world...

When I first got Wiley, ZoKo was squeezing Rottie (she hadn't realized how much he'd changed over the years) and crying. I tried to reassure her that Rottie was okay, that he liked being her dog and having all those signs of wear he'd so proudly earned. She said she wasn't crying for Rottie, she was crying for Wiley. Because he probably didn't even know what it was like to have a warm bed to sleep in or to snuggle with someone for a book. He was so untouched, that he must have been really lonely all these years... I was fighting back tears. She was right. I'm sure his previous owners loved him in their own way, but that was so much different from our world, the way ZoKo's been raised and taught to "love" these critters. It's amazing how much different worldviews can impact even the smallest things in your life. Nothing you do goes unnoticed, even if it takes 7 years to become apparent.

Meanwhile, the girls have been making new tags for the dogs so they'll feel closer to each other, and they keep assuring Wiley that he's in a good home and will never feel lonely. Here's a picture of the two brothers reunited at last. Rottie is the slightly faded, slightly shorter one on the left. Doesn't he look proud?

PS - For anyone curious, Rottie and Wiley are Rottweillers. Rottie (also callen Rotten) is named for the first part of the word. Wiley (short for Wiler) is the second part of the word. Clever, right? :P ...peace...

Craft Projects & Comic Books for Stocking Stuffers

I recently found some really great deals for my Stocking Stuffers Project, and have been meaning to post pictures on here. The upload feature wasn't cooperating with my pc, however, so it got postponed. Well, it's working again, so I figured I'd show you the new deals I managed to snag.

1) "Works Of Ahhh" 5 Real Wood 3D Stand Ups sets... I got three different styles: Outer Space, Fairy Tale, and Pet Shop. Each one includes five wooden cut outs to color (with stands), six markers, a sheet of stickers, and the box which works for storage and folds out as a playset background scene. We got these for 74 cents each at Target, and figured they'd be pretty small and cheap. They're not. The wood is thick and decent quality, and the bigger figures (prince, princess, astronauts, parrot) are 7-8 inches tall. Good deal in my book.

Graveyard Mall is an awesome place for great deals. They had an after Christmas clearance before Christmas and were selling a bunch of stuff for 70% off. It's $2.99 flat rate shipping on every purchase, every day (as far as I know). So, I bought a ton of stuff for this project from them. Candles, comics, books, etc... Then I got an email saying most of the great finds had been oversold, and thus they were refunding money and canceling the orders. :( ...But, I lucked out and still received part of my order, which is totally awesome. Here it is...

2) "Winx Club Comic" issue number 1... They had bulk boxes of this comic (all issue #1), 100 copies for something like 6 or 7 bucks, I don't really remember. I ordered one box to be able to pass out to girls that like fairies (3rd-5th grade). Well, since everything else in my order was sold out, they went on and refunded the entire purchase price, and sent the box of comics anyway. So 100 copies of Winx issue 1 was delivered to my door... FOR FREE! Talking about customer service! Not that I've ever had any bad experiences with them to begin with, they have always been stellar to deal with. Now I've got 98 copies of this comic sitting in my Stocking Stuffers tubs. Two copies mysteriously disappeared somewhere between my front door and my basement. Funny thing, B and ZoKo each have one of the trading cards that only come in the comic books. So weird, right?...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Homemade Womanhood Gift Sets

I've been working on a side "pet project" for the last few months, making "Welcome to Womanhood" gift sets for the girls. These boxes are going to be identical and will be given out at a celebration when each girl reaches puberty and gets her first period. The girls have already read mulitple books preparing them for this milestone, as well as open discussions in the household. They have also received feminine care products and talked about proper usage. In our family, this means cloth pads and sea spoge tampons instead of the more "conventional" methods.

So far, these kits are a big hit with the girls, and they enjoy helping me find things to add to them, as well as watching the boxes slowly grow...

Homemade Womanhood Gift Set

This is a breakdown of each item in the box so far...

Giovanni brand "Hot Chocolate" Sugar Scrub

Jason brand "Lavender" Satin Shower Body Wash

Butterfly Keepsake Journal - records favorite music, movies, affirmations, and more

Sample page from Butterfly Keepsake Journal
Left side says "These things make me happy:" with lines for writing space
Right bottom says "Happiness is not best achieved by those who seek it directly." -Bertrand Russell
10 Secrets For Success And Inner Peace - 20 assorted notecards and envelopes

Love And Power Journal - workbook for the fine art of living by Lynn V Andrews

Life Strategies For Teens - 50 card deck by Jay McGraw

Voice Of Knowledge - 48 card deck by Don Miguel Ruiz

I plan on adding more things to these boxes as I find things on clearances, etc. The most expensive thing in here was the body wash for $4. My total expense on each box at this point is about 16 bucks.

The goal of each box is to help them celebrate this transition, and to give them some tools to help make it easier on them, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I also plan on adding Yogi brand Moon Cycle tea bags, and a few of the self heating disposable muscle ache pads (they work wonders for cramping).

The other thing I plan on adding ASAP to these boxes is a personal bible for each girl, with their full name done in the gold foil lettering on the front cover. My husband and I each have one from when we were younger, and figure this would be a good time to present each of our daughters with one they could call their own.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

KiKi's Color Choice Board

KiKi's Color Choice Board

     This is a project that was a long time coming. In that I had the idea for a long time, but took quite a while to get around to actually bringing the concept I had in my head to fruition... What you see above is a blurry (cell phone) pic of my newest creation. This is a color choice board for KiKi. The concept is quite simple, the cards above the unit are placed on three options, and the color button he pushes coincides with the item he receives. For example, you could place the red square on a cd, the yellow card on a puzzle, and the blue card on a Tigger. Whichever button he presses is the toy he "chooses" and gets. Or for food, he can "choose" between rice milk, a butternut squash soup box, or a pumpkin spice creamer pack... I put the word "choose" in quotation marks because at this point it's simply making him take whatever he selects and hoping that eventually he catches on that the end result is connected to the button he pushed. He is very good at color matching, so I'm hoping this process only takes a few months. At that point, the benefits and uses would be astronomical...
     How I made this choice board... The base the 5 layers of corrugated cardboard, hot-glued together. The end result is stiff, solid, and durable. The top has an envelope to hold the 2" square color cards, and three sound buttons from Build-A-Bear Workshop. The buttons make sound when pressed solidly, to make it easier for the person working with KiKi to know his choice. He does not hear the sounds and has no idea they exist. Each sound button has a 1" color square on it, to match the big squares. The red button is a monkey sound, yellow is a magic wand sound, and blue is children laughing. All pieces are laminated and hot-glued in place, and the envelope is made tight enough to hold the cards in place even when turned upside down. I have 3 back up 2" cards of each color, in case some get lost. The entire board is 2" by 8", small enough to easily fit in most purses (if I carried one), or the stroller basket. This is made to travel with him anywhere he goes, to enable him to choose items when pictures aren't an option. My total cost into this board is at about $15, excluding about 45 minutes of measuring, cutting, and laminating. Overall, I'm very happy to finally have this done. His speech therapist plans on introducing it in the therapy setting on Monday. At home training sessions have already begun. :)

Stocking Stuffers Project

     This last Christmas (2012), I had a last minute brainstorm to get rid of the kids' extra toys. None of the Christmas donation places accept used items, and the thrift shops charge too much for most of what they sell, especially to the people that can least afford it. So a few days before Christmas Eve I posted an ad on Craig's List, offering "stocking stuffers" to people who wouldn't mind getting used toys for their kids. These were stated up front as being used and figuring a value around $5 (if new) per bag, one bag per kid. Just send first names, ages, likes, and an address. I also offered household supplies to those families requesting them (toilet paper, dish soap, and laundry soap were the biggest hits). I posted that we'd be setting up a route and making front porch drop off's sometime Christmas Eve for anyone responding... The results were amazing. Some people asked for things for their own kids, others for kids down the street, or for co-worker's children. Some didn't say how they knew the family. All contacts were kept anonymous, as was I during the whole process. What started as an idea to get rid of extra toys turned into a large scale project overnight.
     Sorting toys, making lists, organizing map routes, and bagging things for each family gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment I've felt in a long time. In the end, with help from close family and friends, we managed to bag toys and household supplies for 31 families in 9 cities, a total of 68 children in the area. Yes, the packages each kid received were small, but that was part of the point. It was not a substitute for a Christmas gift, just a little extra something to show people the world cares. Each family also received a card which simply read "Merry Christmas - Someone Cares!", and a handmade ornament from the girls.

31 bags, filled and ready to go on Christmas Eve, 2012

     Just to give people a better idea of what we're talking about toy-wise, here are some examples of things the kids could have gotten in their individual bags...

          1) A My Little Pony full-size pony (with a brush and two accessories)
          2) Three or four Hot Wheels and two rubber band gliders
          3) A large electronic baby/toddler toy (light up music ball, etc)
          4) Barbie with two outfits
          5) Two age appropriate puzzles
          6) One or two larger toy trucks
          Almost all bags also included either a coloring book (with 4 crayons) or a reading book

     There were lots of other things given out too, those are just examples. All things placed in each child's bag were based on interests the given child was reported to have. One 9 year old boy was said to like "science, bats, and dinosaurs", so he was given a bat stuffed animal I happened to have two of, and three decent-sized plastic dinosaur skeletons...

     Due to the positive response this project had, both in helping me feel a bit more worthwhile, and in the messages about how much the kids loved the things they received, I have decided to continue this project next year... But, if you're going to do something - you should do it right... So, I'm preparing ahead this time. Toys and clothes and household things are being bought on clearance and at yard sales and thrift shops. And things my kids have outgrown (toys and clothes) are being stored away in the basement.

X-Large tubs bought on clearance... Labeled for "boys", "girls", "baby", and "misc/household"

     So far, I've already gotten some great deals to hand out to kids for Christmas 2013. I plan on posting pictures of things and ideas as they come up...

Hot Wheels Foil Pack - contains car, trading card, and sticker (10 for 42 cents each)

Play-Doh 2 oz packs

Merry Christmas plastic cups (43 at 2 cents each)

     I also already have 2 boxes of kids books set aside, everything from board books for babies to about the 6th-7th grade level, covering a variety of topics/genres...
     I'm hoping that by posting this, maybe it'll inspire someone else to get what they can for cheap when they have a few dollars extra, and save it for a similar project in their area. The 2012 bags had an average cost of $5-6 per HOUSEHOLD, once you figure in the household goods that were bought new (toilet paper, lotion, laundry soap, dish soap, bar soap, toothpaste, deodorant, etc). My project budget for this year is set at $5 per week. I'm hoping to have enough things saved up to help at least 40-50 families this year. That should be around 80-100 kids from my area getting a little extra to smile about. According to me, that's money well spent. :)