Our Fairy Garden Obsession

It all started in Frankenmuth.

No, I’m not talking about the extra five pounds I packed on while snarfing down delicious salt-water taffy. I’m talking about my daughter’s fairy garden obsession.

Fairy Garden Obsession

In Frankenmuth, Michigan, right underneath the clock tower, there lies the most adorable fairy garden I’ve ever seen. My daughter laid eyes on it an immediately became enchanted.

And how could one not? Lined throughout the perfectly manicured flower bed is a village of fairy houses, miniature furniture, minuscule playgrounds and habits fit for the wee.

Just a glimpse of the fairy village in Frankenmuth

Just a glimpse of the fairy village in Frankenmuth

Ever since she gazed upon that fairy village, my daughter has wanted to create a fairy garden of her own. And since I’m a sucker for all things miniature, I joined in on her obsession.

My daughter found a spot perfect in our backyard for the fairies to live, tucked away under a bush by the corner of the house that is secluded enough to avoid being trampled on by deer, but still accessible for her to keep an eye out for mystical creatures.

I spent hours and hours on Pinterest and the Internet, scouring over pages of existing gardens to get some ideas for us to create our own fairy habitat.

Then, the task of actually acquiring all the fairy equipment began.

Sure, I could have bought a shit ton of crafting supplies and wielded our own cottage out of rocks, sticks, glue and fake moss, but let’s face it, I ain’t that crafty. I have yet to use a hot glue gun and not walk away with my fingers so blistered from burns that I can’t type for a week.

So, instead of hand crafting a house, we found a great little store near our home that sells all types of fairy cottages, along with every imaginable type of fairy furniture you could hope for.

And that’s when I discovered, to the detriment of my wallet and the ceiling of my crafting abilities, how addictive this hobby could be. It’s like Pringles. Once you start, you can’t stop.

First, we decided on an abode – a cute little farmhouse with windows. Windows that light up at night, for added effect, because we couldn’t resist the solar one. C’mon. It LIGHTS. UP.

Fairy cottage day

Our fairy cottage during the day

Fairy cottage night

Our fairy cottage at night

But then my daughter felt like we needed a welcome sign.

Then an outhouse.

Then a table.

And of course, chairs.

Then a bridge.

And a stream.

Then a tire swing.

Then a walkway.

Then a fence.

Then a more fancy fence.

While it would have been easy to blow my daughter’s college savings on a plethora of pixie paraphernalia, we decided on only a handful of items to get us started and bought the cheapest things in the store we could find.

The car had barely come to a halt in our garage from the garden center before my daughter was out and racing towards the backyard, ready to break ground. I have to say, I’m not sure who had more fun placing our fairy things in the garden, my daughter or me.

Fairy Garden Collage

When my son came home and my daughter dragged him to the backyard to look at our creation, I thought he would take one look at it, shrug, and, in his best 8 year-old boy way, mutter “Meh,” and walk away.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he came up with other ideas to make the fairy garden more inhabitable. The property needed a fire pit. And a flagpole. And a tire swing. And more walkways. And a driveway. And a tool shed.

So, we gathered some stones, some twine, a LEGO tire, and our imagination and literally went to town.  Fairy town.  Seeing my two kids spend hours scavenging for objects to enhance the fairy garden made the $30 bucks I shelled out at the garden center worth it.

The same day, a dead tree was pulled from our front yard, and mere minutes before the landscaping company hauled it away, the kids and I picked it clean like a Thanksgiving turkey, snapping a barrel full of dead twigs and branches to use for future projects.

Five days later, and the kids are still enchanted by our fairy garden. They’re proud of it and show it off to anyone who will give my children the time.  My daughter checks on it morning and night, making sure it’s still intact and thriving. And we brainstorm every day about what other projects we’d like to add to the garden. Next up? A mailbox.

Our fairy garden is still a work in progress, and the kids and I are having fun learning by trial and error.  If you’re interested in starting your own fairy garden, here are some things I found helpful.

First, the obvious. There are hoards of boards on Pinterest to follow. If you’d like to see my Pinterest board on Fairy Gardens, which I’m still adding to, you can find here: my Fairy Garden Pinterest Board Have a fairy board on Pinterest of your own? Go ahead and share the link with me in the comments and I’ll follow along!

And here are some gardens that got my creative juices flowing:

The Magic Onion

Flea Market Gardening

Creative Inspirations

The Fairy Garden

If you’re a MacGuyver or DIY’er and want to make your own fairy houses and accessories, here are a couple of pages to visit:

Use Twigs to Make Rustic Furniture for Fairy Gardens

Twig Chair Tutorial

Miniature Accessories

Household Items For Fairy Gardens

Make a Fairy Garden

But if you’re like me and you want to just straight up by your fairy stuff, I’d recommend either visiting your local garden center (the Mom and Pop stores are a better bet than the Big Box stores), Etsy sites, or heading online. Here are a few places to start:

Miniature Gardens

eFairies

Fly By Night Fairy Gardens 

Fairy Woodland

Do you have your own fairy garden you want to share? I’ve love to hear all about it!

More Than a Good Mother?

My daughter, son and I had just finished the five-minute train ride around the zoo, checking out moose and wolves on a hot summer day.  A grandmother was sitting behind us with a toddler that was, how should I say this, less than stationary.

As the train rolled in to the station, the toddler started to head off the side of the train before it stopped. Both of my kids lunged for the little boy to prevent him from leaping, and my daughter turned and yelled “Oh, don’t let him get off yet!” The grandmother, defending herself, said she wasn’t going to let him get off just yet.

Then, as the grandmother stepped off the train, she turned to me and said, “She’s gonna make a great mother some day! Already looking out for little ones, huh?”

I’m sure this was supposed to be a compliment, meant to express how impressed she was with my child’s compassion for total strangers. All I could say was “Thank you.”

My daughter took that compliment and beamed with pride. To some extent, the grandmother is probably right. My daughter possesses a level of caring and empathy and compassion way beyond what I model for her.

But the more I thought about it, the more bothered I became with that comment.

More Than a Good Mother

Why MOTHER? Why do we say to females that the qualities of compassion and concern for others qualify you for motherhood, but not some other profession, like a physician, who makes sure everyone is health? Or a teacher – someone who often selflessly makes sure children are learning how to navigate the world in our absence? Hell, even a Zoo employee?

And do people even say that to men? That if they show some kindness to a stranger, they will make a fantastic father?

I know this elderly woman meant well, but I think I would have swallowed that compliment easier if the emphasis was on how impressed she was with my daughter’s sense of humanitarianism. And the mere fact that she didn’t even acknowledge my son’s concern as well gives me pause, but that’s another post entirely.

So, what makes someone think a stranger will make a good mother?

If you Google “signs she’ll be a good mother,” you’ll learn a host of things to look for, like “Babies will love her,” or “She doesn’t mind mess.”

This makes me vomit in my mouth a bit.

Most of these articles were written by men, for men, about traits a chick at a bar might possess that would indicate she has strong maternal instincts.

I’m sure some guy was thinking, “you know how we hook men in to not cleaning up their shit? Tell them that the woman that will make a perfect mother ALSO prefers to live in squalor.”

And the Baby Whisperer thing? Please. I’m not even sure my own children would have let me hold them upon first meeting if they hadn’t been yanked from my loins. Babies are temperamental and fickle. Some may just always love men, or only prefer softer frames, or have a strong fondness for folks who dig natural deodorant. Just because they don’t immediately warm up to a woman doesn’t mean that woman won’t kick ass as a mother.

Thinking that if I slightly altered my search, I might find some answers that make me less sweaty and twitchy, I Googled “what makes a good mother.”

This search produced results from credible sources, like physiologists, doctors, and reputable parenting forums. They described qualities a bit easier on my gag reflex. Things like being attentive when your child speaks to you. Showing interest in your child and the things they love. Loving your children madly.

Not one single article said that the sign of a good future mother is the concern for a complete stranger on a zoo train, or anywhere else for that matter.

I have no doubt my daughter will be a fantastic mother one day, if she chooses that path. But I also have no doubt that those same qualities would also make her a great activist, teacher, health care worker, counselor, hair stylist, wife, friend, or any other profession she chooses.

I just hope that the next time someone tells her she’ll make a good mother one day, I can be quick enough on my feet to say, with a wink, “That, and save the planet once her kids are tucked in.”

Because I know she’ll be incredible no matter what she does.

Sound Bites for July

I don’t know about you, but this summer feels like it’s flying by. It’s been jam packed with swimming, camps, travels, popsicles, and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.

And the field of family music is just as full this July! So, since I have a lot to introduce you to, let’s just dive right in.

July Sound Bites

The Jolly Pops is a great little band founded by three musicians/fathers: Ryan Ecklund, Billy Hartong, and Angus Clark. Their newest CD, I Didn’t Do It clearly shows that these are fathers who know what kids like. If your kids favor musicians like The Imagination Movers or Suzi Shelton, they’ll love The Jolly Pops.

The Jolly PopsTheir sound is a wonderful mix of rock and pop with solid vocals, driving guitars and kickin’ drum beats. It’s a sound that adults can identify with, but contain lyrics that showcase the band’s ability to “get” kids.

For instance, fun songs like “Popsicles” and “Chicken Nuggets” will appeal to young ears and appetites. “Alligator Dance” is a bright new-wave song that brings back memories of me dancing to “Safety Dance” in my teens. “I’m Mad” and “Feelings” teaches kids it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. And “Mama’s Not a Monkey Bar” falls in to the camp of things you never thought you’d say as a parent.

With appearances by the lovely Suzi Shelton and others, The Jolly Pops might just be that missing piece to your family’s music collection.

You can find The Jolly Pops I Didn’t Do It on their site and CD Baby.

Roses for PanjoSomewhere Beautiful by Roses For Panjo is one of those albums that I listen to and can’t get enough of.
From the first few notes, I fell in love with Tanya Leah’s crystal clear and spellbinding voice. Created for her father after he suffered a stroke to help soothe him, Somewhere Beautiful is a mellow album that you’ll want to put on repeat.

While not designed as children’s album, it is great as a family album, and something you could put on while reading books or getting ready for bed. Tanya Leah’s sound is a similar flavor to Shawn Colvin or Norah Jones, and shines on her latest album.

Standout songs on the album include the uplifting title track “Somewhere Beautiful”, the upbeat “Signs of Spring” and her dreamy rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

Roses for Panjo’s Somewhere Beautiful is available on their site and iTunes.

Australian_Playground_Cover_WEBPutumayo Kids has a knack for transporting me to another world, and they’re back with their latest collection to sweep me away to the land down under with Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground. With songs by Australian singer-songrwriters and Aboriginal groups, and mentions of kangaroos, vegemite and kookaburras, I can’t help but feel a bit Aussie. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t The Wiggles.

I am amazed by the variety on the album, and the tunes are vastly different but feel like a coherent group. There’s a bit of pop and folk (Bob Brown’s “Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees,” Joe Hall and The Treehouse Band’s “Loose Change,” Don Spencer’s “Kangaroo,” and the beguiling voice of Rosie Burgess on “Random Acts”), to  island music similar to Carribbean music (The Neo and Garrangali’s “Let’s Go” and Garrangali’s “Mirri”), to what we classify as more “world music” (Kamerung’s “Seisia” and Seaman Dan’s “Mango Rain”).

And what Australian album would be complete without a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”? Lazy Harry provides a lovely version of the best-known Australian tune.

A percentage of proceeds benefit the Australian Children’s Music Foundation which provides music programs to the disadvantaged. Liner notes provide insight about each musician and song, making the album a complete educational experience. And as a bonus, it also includes a kid-friendly Australian recipe for damper bread.

Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground is available from Putumayo Kids’ site,  iTunes, and Amazon.

RYH_CoverSeattle band The Not-Its‘ distinct sound sets them apart from many other children’s musicians. Being veteran punk rockers, there is some seriously rockin’ music back behind those kid-friendly lyrics, sung with gratifyingly edgy voices. And now, they’re back with their fifth album (and the follow up to KidQuake!) Raise Your Hand.

Parents, brace yourselves. You may find yourself listening to this when your kids aren’t around.

The Not-Its understand what kids go through. Their struggles (“Funniest Cat Video,” “When I Fell (The Scab Song),” and “Waiting List”) and preferences (“Flannel Jammies”) get some attention through lively harmonies. Summer-appropriate songs of insects (“Mosquito Eater”, and “Bee’s Knees”, a save-the-bees/save-the-planet anthem) and outdoor activities (“We’re Gonna Hike”) demonstrate The Not-Its humor and fun.

And there are some goodies for the parents too. “Motorcycle Mom” paints a picture of a biker mom who tears up the PTA. And “Hey 80’s’ had me nodding my head at every reference. (If you’re a child of the 80’s, it would be fun to go through this song and explain every line.)

“Love is Love” may be one of my favorites on the album, and speaks to the idea that while the definition of family is changing, the foundation of love is the same.

Other great tunes include the title track “Raise Your Hand,” “Haircut,” and “Nose In a Book.”

And check out the video for “Haircut”!

 

The Not-Its’ Raise Your Hand is available July 15th on their site.

Remember “Baby Beluga”? Or what about “Down by the Bay”? And I think I played “Bananaphone” for my son as a toddler more than I thought humanly possible.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you surely know Raffi.

It’s been twelve years since he’s released an album of children’s songs, but he’s back with Love Bug, an album that was certainly worth the wait.

Raffi_LoveBug_LGRaffi still has the ability to capture your attention, creating catchy tunes and heartwarming lyrics. The 16 tracks on Love Bug feel like a treasure chest, filled with all sorts of gems sure to appeal to every taste. It’s a journey through love, the magic of childhood, and the majesty of nature, accompanied by Raffi’s melodic strengths and alluring voice.

“Seeing the Heart” glistens on the album, and is my new favorite love song, reminding me of the purity of a child’s heart. “Magic Wand” feels like a wish list from every parent of a new baby for what they hope the world would be for them. Raffi infuses this hope for a better world and a healthy planet, filled with love, in songs like “Blue White Planet” and “Turn this World Around.”

But he hasn’t lost his aptitude for creating catchy and entertaining tunes such as “Mama Loves It” and “Doggone Woods.” “Cool Down Reggae” is a slow-paced tune that makes me want to swing on a hammock with my kids and chillax. If they’d let me, that is. And the instrumental tracks like “Wind Chimes” and “Pete’s Banjo” adds just the right amount of sprinkles to this delicious treat of an album

Raffi’s Love Bug will be available July 15th on his site, iTunes, and Amazon.

I Heart America: Giveaway!

Can you smell it? It’s the aroma of summer. Sunscreen, bug spray, chlorine, and grilled food. So much of that for me is tied to the 4th of July, which is just 5 days away! I have big plans to celebrate with family. We’ll watch a parade, my kids will try not to get 2nd degree burns from sparklers, and I’ll gain 3-5 pounds. It’s gonna be epic.

And I want you to have an epic weekend too!  I’ve teamed up with a few blogger friends for a giveaway. Because wouldn’t it be better to celebrate America’s Birthday with $100 extra bucks in your pocket?

Before we get to the details, let me introduce my friends!
From bottom left -> up: GinaJeanaeAllieRachelJen and Julia. Seriously, I heart these amazing, funny and talented ladies. Please, please, please, check them out!

Now for the details, comment below with one thing you love about America. Optional entries are liking and following us through various social media channels. Giveaway ends Friday at 5:00 P.M. EST and winner will be announced shortly after. The funds will be transferred immediately via Paypal once the winner has been notified. Voila! A weekend of fun, $100 richer!

Ready, Set, GO!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The 7 Stages Of Pants Shopping

I hate shopping for jeans. No, wait, let me restate that. I detest shopping for jeans. Or pants. Really, any kind of garment that has to fit around my lower body.

I have a small waist and more than ample booty and thighs.  Slap a short stature on top of that, and pant shopping is a recipe for disaster.  It’s downright impossible for me to find a pair of jeans that don’t make me want to wretch when I look in a mirror, which is why I have, like, four pairs of pants. Total.

It’s not often that I head out to shop for jeans, and come back with a huge body issue complex and a large vat of full-fat ice cream to drown my sorrows in.

I recently blew out the knees in my favorite, oldest pair of jeans. It was an extremely upsetting experience, and I tried to rationalize that I could still wear them, despite a hole the size of Alaska in the knees. Because they FIT, for goodness sake. If looking like a hobo would get me out of pants shopping for another month, so be it.

So, when they finally disintegrated into shards, I dragged my butt to the mall.

And then, I had a revelation.

I have the exact same experience every single time I go hunting for jeans. It always follows the same pattern, with almost always the same results.

I call it, The 7 Stages Of Pants Shopping. And it goes a little something like this:

7 Stages of Pants Shopping

Stage 1: Optimism

Because, look! It’s a line of jeans that boast a Flattering Look for EVERY SIZE!

Stage 2. Denial

Yes, I realize that I’m closer to the size of pants I wore while pregnant, but I decide to look for pants in the size I was when I got married anyway.

Stage 3. Frustration

I mean, c’mon. How is it that these “stretch” pants don’t even have enough give to get over my saddlebags? Who came up with “skinny” jeans in the first place, dammit!

Stage 4. Anger

See, now? Now I’m just full out pissed, because almost every single pair of pants I’ve tried on at this point fit in the legs and butt, but have a gap around my waist big enough to hold a small family of rabbits. And who is this tall? I could wear stilts and still not fit in to these!

Or, equally maddening but more humiliating, I’ve shimmied in to the jeans, but now fear I cannot get out of them.  Don’t worry, I’m about to get all Bruce Banner up in this dressing room and bust out of them any second.

Stage 5. Sadness

As I place that 20th pair of jeans back in its hanger, I am mourning not only the dozens of cute pants that I’m not walking away with, but also the loss of my firm backside.

Stage 6. Ambivalence

After I calm down from my tantrum, I can walk out of the dressing room, arms filled with rejects of cool-looking, hip pants that could potentially bring my wardrobe up to date, and declare “I didn’t want these stupid jeans anyway.”

Stage 7. Acceptance

It’s just destined to be, I guess. I’ll just have to keep wearing the same ratty cargo capri pants circa 2003 until they rot.

And this, my friends, is why I refuse to go pants shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary. I’m currently looking for a support group. Preferably one that allows me to wear sweatpants to meetings.