Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentine Mailbox

*an oldie but a goodie...reposting because I love this tradition so much*

Like all other holidays, we celebrate Valentine's Day BIG.  Growing up, my mother had a huge, waist expanding Valentine Brunch.  Along with the surplus of trans fats and sugars, there was a homemade Valentine Mailbox overstuffed with Valentine's for everyone in the family.

As kids, we looked forward to constructing and decorating the Valentine Mailbox.  My mother made this an event.  The event was always announced at least one day in advance. 

"Tomorrow night we are decorating the Valentine Mailbox!"  

Que squeals of delight.

Once decorated, the mailbox was placed out in the open for all to see and admire.  As we made Valentine's we stuffed them inside.  Having a mailbox staring us in the face everyday motivated us to make many Valentine's. 

At our Valentine Brunch, the mailbox was opened and hundreds of Valentine's were delivered.  The messages, pictures and goodies were always good for a laugh.  

Ever since my munchkins could hold a crayon I helped them make our Valentine Mailbox.  Like my mother, we make it an event and we set our mailbox out in the open.  My kids then spend their days crafting, writing and drawing pictures.  They write names on candies and fruit snacks and have even stuffed small toys in the box.

And when my parents are over, they always add a little note for each munchkin.  Or a dollar.  When we open our mailbox at our Valentine Dinner, you never know what you're gonna get.

Today I grabbed an oversized box for my kids to transform into the "Mailbox."  The shoebox doesn't cut it anymore.  

My trick with any craft or activity we do annually is to keep it simple.  I make it more about the together time and the experience.  We tape any ole' thing we can find onto our mailbox.  Anything pink, purple or red is game.  

We've painted, taped, glued and stapled.  There is no method to our madness. 

Let me walk you through today's mailbox construction:

The blank canvas.  Box, your life will never be the same.  I apologize in advance.
Jackpot!  Valentine craft paper in the basement! 
Hmmm....doesn't quite fit...we'll have to use the patch method....
My older daughter has always been a tremendous help with the decorating. 
Right about now is when one of these rascals cracked an inappropriate joke.  Giggles ensued.  No craft time is complete without a joke about butts.
To finish the masterpiece I slice the "mail drop opening" with a knife or scissors. 
Year after year, regardless of how the mailbox comes together, it's always perfection.  And I have some wonderful Valentine Mail saved from over the years.  My munchkins never seize to amaze me when they pour their tiny hearts out on homemade Valentines.

Being serious for a hot second (it's about all I can stand), this tradition is wonderful to practice letter writing and composition, etiquette, compassion and design.  

Whew, I think I may have just hurt myself.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Make a mailbox...you never know what surprises will be inside!

**My kids today are 16, 14, 12 and 8.  We still do the mailbox (although now I bought a standard metal mailbox I bring up every year) and we still make each other valentine's.  We just had our big brunch (for supper actually) on Sunday.  Our Valentine week is full with sports, activities and work obligations, so we always find a day that works to keep the tradition alive.

Everyone had Valentine's in the mailbox, and the homemade are always my favorite.  It fills my heart with joy to read what my kids write to me and each other. It takes effort to keep traditions alive, especially as your kids grow and life gets busier.  But it's worth it, and it keeps the family together.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Table

I work with a lovely lady who has four children as well, except her kids are grown and navigating their lives as young adults.  Married, engaged, working...it's enlightening to see how my future may look when my kids leave the nest and start lives of their own.

I may need medication, but it's enlightening all the same.

A few days ago, this friend at work gave me and another co-worker some words of wisdom.  

"Never stop the family dinner.  Never.  Keep them around that table. Yes there are nights you are on the run, maybe more than you are home.  But every chance you have you set and eat around the table."

It made me think.  I used to make a family dinner every night.  When my kids were little, and we weren't running all over every weeknight with activities, we were around that table.  I taught my kids about napkins on laps, how to cut their own food and to ask permission to be excused. It was important to me they learned etiquette, and to this day they are pleasant dinner companions. 

Trouble is, today those dinners are fewer and farther between.  We are just about as busy as I can handle some days.  We have two or three practices to work around every night.  And games.  

That's before we even figure out homework and dinner and chores. 

We eat in the kitchen, we eat "together."  But there is something about that table.  I admit I was getting lax about it, there were nights we all were home and I let it slide.  Eating in the same room was enough.  

Not anymore.  

This week, the only night we were all home, we set the table.  I made a feast and we gathered around that table. We said our prayer, and we did our classic "high and low."  We go around the circle and everyone shares their high for the day and their low.  You could do a high for the week, or a high for the year.  

What's important is that we all answer the same question, and it gives us insight into everyone's lives.  We know what makes someone's day, what they value and what they dread.

It's wonderful.  And I feel like when we're around that table - with NO phones and no distractions - like time pauses.  Just for a bit, but it does. 

It's magic.  

Don't let that time together go, cherish the moments you can set aside to connect with your kids.  It makes a difference for them and for you.  There is nothing kids want more than your time. Those traditions give them something to look forward to after a long day, and something to come home for when they fly the nest.

Happy Tuesday...make it special. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to Make Crayon Hearts

I found this Valentine activity years ago in Family Fun magazine.  I loved that it was easy, quick and unique.

It also made broken crayons useful again.
Broken crayons are one of the banes of my Mommyhood existence.  Please go away broken crayons.  Go away and never return.

Aside from recycling annoying crayon nubs, this activity makes a wonderful Valentine's Day gift for classmates.  A gift that is not a lollipop or a pencil.

Hallelujah and an Amen to that one.

I am good on pencils for at least a year.  We have a wonderfully varied pencil selection with a pencil for every holiday, season, superhero and princess.

I'm bracing for another pencil delivery via three backpacks next Monday (2/14).  If you are contributing to this delivery, I do thank you.  Even though I have a million of them, pencils don't expire.  I guess I can take a few dozen more.  I might use them to build a shed.

Without further ado, I bring you the "How To" on making crayon hearts.


Heart shaped cookie or muffin tin
Annoying crayon pieces from all over your house, car and purse

1. Help munchkins peel paper off broken crayons.  This is a wonderful, time consuming quiet activity.  Munchkins have to concentrate to peel that paper.  The room will be silent.

Savor it.

And then breathe deeply as you view broken crayon pile (cringe) and tiny scraps of paper pile (cringe squared).
This picture gives me agita.

2. Have munchkins fill each mold with assorted crayon pieces.  I love to watch my munchkins combine different colors for each mold.
LLG just tosses pieces in to fill each mold, he lets the chips fall where they may.

The Gymnastics Queen is very particular with her color schemes.  LLG's complete and total disregard for order drives her mad.  I find this very amusing as long as no one cries too loud.

3. Bake at 250 for 10-15 minutes until crayons are melted.

4. Remove from oven and cool at least an hour.  Crayons will easily pop out of mold once cooled.

These are wonderful to accompany store bought Valentines or to make homemade Valentines.

For homemade Valentines adhere heart crayons to a cut piece of card stock.

Add a super corny but cute message such as "You melt my heart" or "You make my days more colorful".

Valentine's Day is the ultimate in cheesy punch lines.  It's fabulous.

Go grab a heart shaped muffin tin and make something cool (heart crayons) out of something that is not cool (broken crayons).

Happy crayon making!