Mommy’s Christmas Sweatshop

“If you don’t put another bead on that ornament, I’m taking the beads away!”

Nothing like threats to really foster that Christmas spirit. To my credit, she asks to do the craft

Zs Homemade Orna-na-ments

project. “Oh!” she says. “I want to make another orna-na-ment.” To her credit, she’s two. After threading five or six pony beads on a pipe cleaner, she’s ready to move on to lining up rubber duckies or arranging an elaborate dinner for her stuffed gecko.

To my credit, I have festive Christmas music playing in the background. To her credit, yesterday was the first clear day after a handful of rainy ones, and sitting still didn’t sound fun.

To my credit, I’m aiming for Christmas to be about giving, not just receiving…even though I’ve dropped countless hints about the Laptop O’ Dreams. To Z’s credit, I don’t think she quite understands the concept of a Christmas deadline (after all, she doesn’t have an email inbox full of reminders and coupons ominously counting down to the Big Day).

To the relief of both of us, we can always take a break from beading. There are all sorts of additional holiday tasks readily adaptable to a two-year-old’s capabilities and temperament. So far I’ve had her put stickers on the Christmas card envelopes, sweep fallen needles from under the Christmas tree, and help with house cleaning before family comes. Soon she’ll be stirring dough for Christmas cookies and helping me wrap presents!

The best part of this is: these Christmas “chores” are fun anyway, and they’re even more fun when I view them through the eyes of my daughter.

One Fish, Two Fish, Blue-fish, Blue-fish, Blue-fish

In which the Ever-Suffering Mother gets crafty.

Last year's Red-winged Blackbird costume. I'm smiling 'cause the sewing is OVER.

This Halloween, Z is old enough to choose what she wants to be. Her first Halloween she wasn’t even three months old, so I got to decide (butterfly). Second Halloween,  I got to decide (Red-winged Blackbird). Third Halloween: she wants to be a fish (not what I would have chosen).

"Baby" as model.

So here’s how I made a very easy fish costume. Some assembly required. But no sewing.

Step One: Find a babysitter. You do NOT want to take your two-year-old into Jo-Ann’s Fabrics. Bad idea.

Step Two: Head to a craft and fabric store to gather materials needed. You will need:

  • 2 pieces of poster board. I chose blue because she wants to be a blue fish, but it doesn’t really matter.
  • fabric. Two yards total would have been fine for my two-year-old. I went overboard, buying four different shades of blue, some with bling, some shiny. It depends on what you want for the end result. One yard should be your “base” for the fish, so when scales don’t match up right, you don’t have poster board showing through. Note: I think I got extra mileage from my “yard” because the fabric is sheer and was doubled up.
  • 2 9X12-inch foam sheets (the ones I bought are 2 mm thick)
  • dark blue ribbon
  • spray glue
  • strong masking tape
  • a lot of hope
  • prayer won’t hurt

Step Three: Cut a toddler-sized fish shape (minus fins – so basically an oval) from both pieces of poster board (just grit your teeth and eyeball it, then cut away). I used Z to measure how long to make the ovals.

Step Four: Cut out the fins for the bottom. Z’s fins are one foot wide.

Step Five: Cut two ovals from your large piece of base fabric to roughly match size of poster board ovals

Step Six: Cut out lots and lots of “scales” from the fabric. I was not exact on this, and I think the more size/shape variation you have for the scales, the cooler it will look. The scales I cut were anywhere from 5 inches long to 6.5 inches long, and between 3 and 4 inches wide.

Step Seven: Using the spray glue, glue the base fabric onto the poster board. If it’s wrinkly, don’t worry, it’ll barely show after the scales are on. Trim off excess fabric.

Step Eight: Use masking tape to attach the fins to the bottom (tape them to the reverse side of the poster board so the tape doesn’t show).

Step Nine: (the fun part!) Glue on the scales. I started at the bottom and used spray glue. I glued the bottom row first, then moved up to the next row, trying to vary the ways the scales overlapped within rows. I don’t think it really matters.

Step Ten: Using whatever genius is left over in your craft-fried brain, figure out a way to attach the two pieces of poster board to make a front and back of the fish. I used ribbon (fixing it in place with extra masking tape), but I will probably change this before the Big Day, because I don’t think ribbon is strong enough to withstand a toddler running around. I might use leftover scraps from the poster board (and more masking tape. Love masking tape).

I am not worrying about extra fins or anything. The scales and tail fins peg it as a fish. I only lost one night of writing by working on it, and Z LOVES it, so I’m a happy mom.

Z modeling her costume at school