Tag Archives: michaels arts and crafts

Hay Fever

Talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I recall with fondness the good old days, when I complained on this blog about a ubiquitous makeup brush. Everywhere I turned, it seemed, the thing was. It acted downright demonic. But it was really just very popular with the then two-year-old living in my house.

Little did I know how much worse things could be. Or how easy I had it then. The brush was, after all, a single object.

The fake money that came later was worse–there were multiples, after all–but even then, its numbers were somewhat limited. Same with the pipe cleaners. Yes, they were scattered everywhere, but there couldn’t have been more than, oh, thirty or forty of them in total.

How innocent it all seems now.

For we have advanced to the stage of the–well, I know not even what to call it. Endless yellow packing material, I guess.

Let me go back.

It started at Christmas. Our old friend, Carol–a woman who contains more creative energy in her left toenail than I do in my entire body–gave Myra-Jean a “treasure box” that she’d made herself. It was large, with gold hinges, the rest painted blue with green stripes. On the top, my daughter’s initals were embossed in colorful wood. Inside were beads, perhaps some coins, and a handful of those small, smooth, stones you buy at Michael’s–I believe the official term for them is “fairy tears.” (Which probably scares the shit out of children–“why’s the fairy crying?”–but whatever.)

Anyway. These items didn’t take up much space. So, to fill the box out, Carol placed in it a large wad of yellow paper straw. Like the stuff you see in Easter baskets. Or wooden crates filled with pears. Or gift boxes of soap.

MJ liked the chest just fine. She loved the treasures. But her favorite part of the gift, bar none, were the sun-colored paper shreds inside. The stuff was endlessly interpretable. It was hay for toy horses, nests for play birds, beds for little people. It could be beaded–sort of–and made into bracelets. It could be scattered. It could be patted. It could be worn as hair.

“This stuff is gonna be a problem,” I muttered to Mike a few days later, as we packed up our Christmas gifts to be sent home. “We should trash it now.”

“I don’t know,” he demurred. “”She seems to like it.”

There was a pause. Mostly benign.

“I’ll throw it away later,” I muttered.

And home it flew, to L.A.

I can’t tell you how many times, since then, I have sworn to fulfill that promise. Most recently today, when I found, as I vacuumed,  at least one piece of the straw–which grows more popular by the day–in every single room of the house.

But once again, Mike came to the rescue.

“She’s gotten so much mileage from it. I think it’s her favorite thing ever.”

He gazed at me with that calm, frank look he gets when he’s reminding me–ever so gently–not to be such a tight-ass.

I gazed back at him with that tight-lipped, furrowed-brow look I get when I’m thinking “you’re not the one vacuuming it up every day.”

Done with our gazing, we agreed the hay would stay.

“But,” I muttered, as I picked strands of it out of one of our houseplants. “I’m hiding it from her.”

In the end I didn’t even do that. I just shoved it back in its treasure chest and left it in the living room. Why fight the inevitable? Tomorrow it’ll end up, once again, strewn like mulch in every corner of our home.

But tonight? It rests paperishly in its box.

My daughter, her precious playthings safe, sleeps peacefully in her bed.

And me? I sit happily on the couch, enjoying–for a sweet, short moment, an immaculately clean-swept house.

This is Forty-Five

I’ve been feeling less than my usual self lately. I’m attributing it to a mid-life crisis–I took a quiz online and answered “yes” to eight out of ten questions. I’m not having an affair, of course. But otherwise I fit all of the criteria. I’m 45, mildly depressed, cranky, tired, obsessed with having another baby, and experiencing a sudden and overwhelming desire to trade in my car. For a Honda Fit EV. But still.

So I’ve been, emotionally speaking, a bit unstable. Grouchy with Mike, prone to weeping, listless, singing a lot of 1980’s commercial jingles. Who knows why. And I’m stressed. About everything. Mortality, global warming, inexplicable moths in my bathroom…and as if all of that’s not bad enough, I have another round of AE coming up–that’s Afternoon Enrichment, for those of your who missed  spiderfest six weeks ago. I’m a wreck about it. Again. I mean, really. You’d think I was prepping for a ten-year trial at the Hague and not for two hours of crafting with a handful of pre-schoolers.

I blame the mid-life crisis. It tells me, you see, that my life amounts to nothing. What have I got to show for myself? A small family and a wobbly house. Some blog posts, a few CD’s. Oh, and a handful of broken appliances. (With a new one added just today: the garbage disposal. Because I poured MJ’s innocuous-looking cup of “perfume“–which had gone rancid–into it, not realizing that said concoction was loaded with six hundred pebbles.)

Anyway. It seems like so little. Compared to most of the people I know, anyway.

Which brings me back to AE. Because all I can think about is how spectacularly the other parents do it. You should see the “crafts” they come in with! Looms, to teach the kids to weave. Silkworms, to help the kids grasp metamorphosis. They teach them to make artisanal paper, then use it to make books. There is gluten-free baking, vegetable dying, block printing, silk screening. I halfway expect to come in one day and see the kids grinding their own flour. Which they’ve grown, right before class, in their newly-fashioned hydroponic garden. That they mulched by hand and fertilized with fish carcasses that they mashed themselves after first raising said creatures in a hand-blown glass bowl–also made in class–that they later recycled into a terrarium in which they built a microcosmic universe, complete with teeny-tiny galaxies, all made from hand-dyed dark matter.

Then there’s me. I have no fucking ideas. Or I do have some, but they’re all inchoate and utterly illogical. Each possesses a fatal flaw. If only there were a craft that employed those. I’d be so well equipped. Fatal flaw God’s Eye, anyone? Hang it on the Christmas tree!

Oh, I considered making perfume. That seemed like a great idea for a second. It fits the “emergent” theme. It uses natural materials. Engages the senses. There’s a recipe for simple rose water online. But it requires boiling water. And I refuse to bring anything scalding into a group of four-year-olds. Unless its my wit. So that idea is out.

There were others. Many of them. None panned out. So I went to Michael’s. My beleaguered husband offered to take me. I think he was at his wit’s end. I am not quiet about my suffering. I am not subtle. I agonize, vocally and often. Between nervous rounds of “Oscar Mayer Wiener,” of course. These AE classes may be harder on him than they are on me. So to the strip mall we went.

There we found–on sale for fifty cents apiece–some small cardboard birdhouses.

I’m not sure why they were so discounted. Unless it’s their size. The holes in them are so wee that a real bird could never fit inside. OK, maybe a hummingbird. But only a baby. A runt, actually. Still, I bought ten of them. My “students” are going to decorate them and give them to their dads for Fathers Day. I know, it’s absurd. It makes no sense. It’s un-emergent, requires no motor skills, and uses nothing natural. Unless you count cardboard, which is, after all, recyclable in some states. Still, no father in the world needs a tiny, unusable, paper birdhouse that’s been painted, covered with glitter, and dotted with stray beads. No father bird, even. But that’s what they’re going to get. And damn it, they’re going to like it.

Because I’m having a mid-life crisis, and right now this is the best I can do.

“‘Cause if I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”

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Nervous A-Wreck-Nid

Up half the night last night worrying. Not about money. Not about earthquakes. Not about war, famine, or pestilence.

No, I was worrying about crafting.

Tomorrow I have to run the AE (Afternoon Enrichment) program at MJ’s preschool. Since we’re at a co-op, there are many ways in which parents get to participate. But this one is new to me, as MJ just joined AE a few weeks ago. Every six weeks, now, it’ll be my turn to “teach” ten pre-schoolers something enriching for two hours after school. Basically, I’ll be responsible for coming up with an idea or theme, running a “circle time” about it, then doing a related craft, singing a related song, and providing snack. Related or not.

I’ve chosen spiders as my theme for tomorrow. Why? I don’t know. I dislike the things violently. I kill them with no guilt. In Nova Scotia last summer I must’ve vacuumed up eighty of them in a single fifteen-minute period. But, a week or two ago, when I first learned of my upcoming gig, I was perusing a book about preschool science experiments and I found a section on arachnids. There was a craft project that seemed not too challenging. I latched on, like a dysfunctional babe at a milkless teat.

Now I’m committed. Overly so, you might say. I’ve procured a spider book from the library, come up with at least two additional crafting projects, and landed upon two spider songs. Neither of them are quite right. One is by Raffi, who should be reliable on these matters. It’s called “Spider on the Floor.” When I finally listened to the lyrics this morning, however, I realized they include the word “dumb” — not OK, Raffi!–and the line “I wish that I were dead.” MJ’s school follows a nonviolent philosophy. An infraction like that could get us get thrown out. Nonviolently, of course. But still.

We’re going to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” instead. That should kill ’em in the cheap seats.

To add insult to injury, today I have to make a special trip to Michael’s–my least favorite place–to buy black pipe cleaners for the egg carton spiderlings we’re going to create. Which Mike has been prepping all morning for me–thank God–but which I’m still convinced are going to suck. Then I need to find newspaper for the brown bag Mama spider we’re also going to make. Which is also going to suck. Then there’s the Easter egg hunt. Yes. I know. It’s absurd. But, when in doubt, I add. So, once everything else is done we’re going to go out into the yard and search for  eggs filled with plastic spider rings. This won’t suck, but it is going to seem awfully random.

I don’t know why I’m doing any of this. I’m a nervous wreck. I HATE crafting. I hate spiders. I hate Raffi. I hate it all.

And, just for today, I kind of hate being at a co-op.

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Map of the (Water) World

Since I’m out a camera this week I’m employing a reverse technique for posting. Usually I write what I want, then take a picture based on the subject matter. Today, instead, I’ve started with an image I already had–one I took some weeks ago–and tacked on the appropriate words. Is it what I feel like writing about? Not particularly. Is it something I have a usable shot of? Yes.

Voila. Decision made.

But really, it’s for the best. I’ve been intending to write this post forever. I need to write it. It’s my moral duty. For it’s a bit of a mea culpa, you see, to Michael’s. The store. The chain store. The overwhelming, coupon-spewing, made-in-China, filled with cheap crap, in every strip-mall, lines so long you want to hang yourself chain store.

Ahem. I beg your pardon. This isn’t sounding like an apology at all. Let me re-start.

You may remember some time back I left a picture to be framed at Michael’s. Embarrassment ensued. Shame, even. Profound chagrin at the amount of money that had been extorted from me. Regret, an attempt to cancel the order–heck, ashes on my face, the pulling out of hair, the rending of my clothing–it all basically followed. But the order could not be cancelled. The deed was done. The nearly $600 deed. My annoyance at Michael’s–and myself–knew no bounds.

Follow-through not being my strong suit, I never got back to you with the outcome. I’m sorry. That’s a character flaw. I love discussing my problems. Less interesting: recounting the resolutions. In short, it’s taken my camera being nabbed for me to finally get around to telling the end of the story, thereby offering you all some closure. I know you’ve waited. I know you’ve suffered. I know you’ve spent countless hours sobbing on therapists’ couches…

Mea culpa, readers.

Seriously. Turns out my framing debacle wasn’t such a debacle after all. The picture in question–a drainage map of the United States–actually came back looking pretty good. Oh, there are glare issues. I don’t love the faux aging of the wood. I doubt it even is wood. But all in all, once the thing was up, it added to the living room. My biggest remaining questions were what the hell is a drainage map? And what is one doing on my living room wall? But those were largely rhetorical. And meant solely for my husband.

All I am left with is the sticker shock. I still think the job was shockingly overpriced. A few months down the line, with Mike’s hiatus looming closer and closer, I’d never consider paying $575 for a frame. But we were flush back then, and flush folk make financial fools. (Like the alliteration? I just did that.)

Given the same situation now? I’d make the frame myself out of sticks, poster paint, and glue. And plexiglass. Glare-proof, of course. I’m sure you can buy all of that at Michael’s. And for a fraction of the price.

As it is, we’ve got what we’ve got.

And if you’ve got drainage questions? Turns out I’m your girl.

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Pipe Un-Cleaner

To be added to the list of things perpetually underfoot at our house: the humble pipe cleaner. Or not so humble, depending on whether or not MJ has dressed it up with beads from Michael’s. I’m telling you, the fucking things are everywhere. She calls it “decorating.” I call it wanton destruction. If there were such a thing as a pipe cleaner bomb we’d be casualties of it here.

Mike thinks it’s cute, so he aids and abets. (He is, after all, an MFA.) Thus, the pipe cleaner “installation” hung near the ceiling in our kitchen. Very funny, honey. May I remind you: that’s where we’re supposed to have a smoke alarm? In the event of a fire I think your little joke may come to seem a bit of an ironic folly. I’m just saying…

But I mustn’t blame Mike. It’s really the kid. She’s infatuated–ergo: the whole house is covered. Strewn. Festooned.

Of course I could clean it all up, but they’d only re-appear tomorrow. So my approach? Blog about it, then ignore.

Until one of them punctures the sole of my foot. Then we’re talking war.

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Holy Trinity

Divine interventions of the day:

  1. Brought MJ to school this morning before my morning caffeine had kicked in. Chastised the head teacher in front of two other parents about the techno music being played on the yard. Told her “I feel like I’m at a rave, not a nursery school.” Caused it to be changed. Left upset. Got back to school later and the entire parent and teacher population was not avoiding me like the plague. Miracle #1.
  2. Took MJ to MIchael’s to buy craft supplies for the 38 valentines we have to make by Thursday for the kids and teachers at her school. Found out as we were getting out of the car that she had to pee “really badly.” Also that she would not, under any circumstances, use the bathroom at Michael’s or any other local establishment. Managed to make it through a laborious, confusing, time-consuming shopping experience and emerge with heart stickers, card stock and stamps, all without MJ peeing in the aisles. Did forget the stamp pads. Will have to return tomorrow. Still–Miracle #2.
  3. Went to Trader Joe’s. Looked for the dark chocolate-covered caramels that I have sworn repeatedly never to buy again. Needed to have one. Didn’t care about past promises. Searched high and low. Learned they were out of them until tomorrow. Miracle #3.

 

Now if I could just get someone to make these damn valentines…

Stop Payment

Yesterday morning, bright and early, I got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign. It was totally legit–the ticket, I mean. Although my actions were also, in my opinion, completely justifiable. My neighborhood is filled with moronic, pointless, arbitrary stops; you have to run some of them if you ever want to get down the hill. Or so say I. My husband disagrees, but he’s always had the lion’s share of the patience in this household. I, on the other hand, just have the lead feet.

So I got the ticket. I asked the cop if he might consider letting me off “just for the heck of it,” but he demurred. Odd. Anyway, I figure I’m out around $300. It’s brutal, but true. At least I can do traffic school, because I haven’t gotten a ticket of this kind in, oh, twenty years. Which isn’t too bad, when you consider the ambivalent relationship I have with traffic laws. Still, it’s a tough pill to swallow, financially. Especially with Mike about to go on unpaid hiatus.

Then the dryer broke. Suddenly it sounded like it had an ecstasy-induced drum circle inside of it. I got a repair man to come in. It’ll cost $150 to fix.

Finally I returned four kids’ books to the library. I knew they were a little late, but really? $7.10? Sigh. The galling thing about it is they all sucked. “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom?” Lousy. It makes no sense. And it’s terrifying. Baby letters falling out of a tree, incurring various highly visible injuries? Um, if I wanted to traumatize my daughter like that I could just take her sight-seeing to the local emergency room. So that was a bust. Then there was some story book about a puppy; the dialogue consisted almost entirely of the words “bow wow.” Try saying that fifty times in a row. “Bow wow! Bow wow! Bow wow!” You’ll want to scream. You’ll want to die. You’ll want to throw yourself out of a tree like a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom lower case “p.”

The other two books were equally forgettable. Making the entire experience totally dispiriting. If I’m going to pay usurious fees for late books, I’d prefer that they were of the “War and Peace” variety. Or whatever the kids’ equivalent is. “Tantrums and Snuggles.” Why didn’t Tolstoy write that?

There was one item in the plus column yesterday. I took MJ to Michael’s to buy her some new “treasures.” She selected three heart necklaces from the sale bin, a mesh bag of glass stones, and a package of metallic beads. In total these came out to about nine bucks. But I had one of those coupons for 40% off of one item. They’ve been coming regularly in the mail since I sunk my entire life’s savings into that frame awhile back.

This saved me $1.40.

I am thinking of applying for a job at Trader Joe’s. Or finding more stuff to sell on ebay. But one thing I am doing for sure, right now, no question? The thing that’s sure to keep us a bit more solvent than we would be otherwise?

Stopping. At every. Damn. Sign.

At least until I’m eligible for traffic school again.