Random Neural Firings

the inner workings of a restless creative brain

Recycle Your Baby’s Favorite Shirts into Awesome Wall Art




Y’all know about my Zutano obsession (if not, read here, here and here). As Hunter outgrew these cute clothes, I gave many beloved Zutano outfits to friends but held back a few that I just couldn’t part with for sentimental reasons. I have heard of some people turning their children’s clothing into a quilt but I can’t sew. I can, however, use a staple gun. I went and bought some small canvases at an art supply store, cut up my son’s shirts and pulled them around the back of the canvas and stapled them in place. And voila! Instant wall art.


  • 5″x5″ canvases (on sale for around $2.50/ea) – if your shirts are really small, you might need 4×4″ frames
  • staple gun with 1/4″ staples
  • beloved/favorite shirts
  • You could also do this with leggings/pants/dresses. I contemplated using a variety of shapes and sizes of canvases, which I think would be cute, too.

Cut out the cutest part of the pattern of the shirt. Hold it on the front of the canvas while you pull one side to the back. Staple in place. Move to the OPPOSITE side of the canvas and pull the fabric down. Take a look and make sure you have the fabric pattern situated the way you want (stripes might be crooked so now’s your chance to straighten them out). Staple. Then do the other sides, folding the corners back like you’re wrapping a present. There’s no great way to do the corners. I stapled and cut away some of the excess fabric so the canvases would hang flat.

Simple DIY Wall Art Using Outgrown Shirts     



It took about an hour to do six shirts. I love looking at my little memory wall. Each outfit reminds me of those early (hazy) days of parenthood.

This is part of the Works for Me Wednesday series, hosted by We Are THAT Family. Great tips there!


Santa Photo Tips


Santa photo tips

This was our first time getting a picture with Santa. Standing in line, my son was nervous (he tells me he’s “tired” and wants to go to sleep – as if!) and other kids were crying that were ahead of us. But once he got on Santa’s lap, he was fine, chatting away. I don’t think he really understands who or what Santa is just yet. At any rate, I’m THRILLED with how the photo turned out!

Of course, being the former TV director that I am, I did a few things ahead of time to maximize our chances of getting a good shot. Here are some tips I learned from my kids TV days – and a few I probably just made up.

Santa’s always in red so don’t dress your children in solid red unless you want them to blend in. I know you spent a lot of money on that dress so if you want it to show up, pick a different color. Speaking of colors, generally speaking, all white can freak the camera lens out a little bit and your little one might look all washed out (or if you’re dark skinned, the camera might have trouble with the stark contrast). But – if your Santa has on a lot of white around his face, as this one does, then they have probably already lit the shot correctly for that. An all-white (or mostly white, just to be safe) dress could be very cute and complimentary to Santa’s outfit in that case.

Don’t be afraid to choose a fun outfit, or one that has sentimental meaning for you. If your son is wearing his favorite race car shirt, he just might be more comfortable, and you’ll have that special memory of the time he lived in that shirt. We were the only ones in line in pajamas, but all the moms around me told me they loved that idea.

Practice some facial expressions ahead of time. We do this naturally around here anyhow, as a game: Show me your happy face! Let’s all do sad faces! Angry face! The expression we used for this photo was his “surprised” face. (His on-demand happy face/smile looks forced right now.)

In addition to talking up the fact that hey, we’re going to go see Santa this week, I also pulled up photos of kids sitting on Santa’s lap to show my son. I felt that way he could better understand what it meant to “go see Santa.”

Just like any other time, let them take their lovey or a favorite toy. You can’t see it very well but Santa is holding one of my son’s stealth fighter jets in his hands.

Best of luck with your Santa shots. We got ours done early but that’s cuz this particular Santa at this particular Mall has, like, a 10-year waiting list, and we were lucky to get a reservation. I wasn’t able to get one last year.

Wise Words


My friend, Cara’s, Facebook post today:

“While wrangling my son to stand still in line at the store today, an older woman behind me said ‘You’re in the time of your life when a lot is asked of you and a lot is asked of him.’ So, so true. And yet, as parents, we often forget about the latter. A great reminder to be patient with our little ones even when they are not patient with us!”

Cara and her line-mate are right: we do ask a lot of our little ones. They are learning and growing and just as overwhelmed with everything at times as we are.

What About a Wall-E Party?


My son won’t turn 3 till November but I’m already starting to come up with ideas for his birthday. Originally, I thought we’d go with an airplane theme because he’s been sort of into them (his PopPop has a plane and is doing all he can to encourage Hunter’s fascination). We live near a small, private airport that has a great playground and “hangar” with tables for parties. I thought this could be a fun place for a 3-year old party (although I dread the thought of carting food and decorations any further than my kitchen).

That was my thinking until my son started wanting to watch “Wall-E” all the time. Literally, first thing in the morning, he wants to watch and begs for it all day long (even watching clips on the iPad when we let him).

So maybe I’ll go with a Wall-E theme instead (assuming he’s still into Wall-E in a few months). But will try to resist all the official Wall-E party supplies and do our own thing. How about some of these ideas:

  • Take some of his old shoes, fill with dirt, plant an herb – line ’em up as a centerpiece
  • Mini Rubiks cubes for party favors
  • A Coleman cooler filled with “treasures” for the kids to take home
  • Sporks as the lone utensil
  • Boiled eggs decorated to look like Eve  
  • Sandwiches cut out to look like Wall-E , like these from Anna The Red’s blog  
  • Boxes decorated like trash, stacked up and strewn about
  • Will try and find someone to make a 3-dimensional Wall-E cake (like the 3-D bus cake I had last year)    

So there you have it! My early, early, EARLY stage planning. Poor kid’s room still isn’t decorated (and we’ve lived in this house a year now so really, I have no excuse) but I’m planning his birthday party.

Bye Bye Food Pyramid, Hello Plate


The First Lady, along with the Agriculture Secretary and Surgeon General, has unveiled a new icon in the campaign to teach Americans healthy eating habits. As a marketer, I have to say I find this much easier to use than the old pyramid. And as a mom of a son with the remnants of a feeding disorder, I am doubly appreciative. As we were working with our son to get him to eat table foods, I was confused about portion sizes. Since my son wouldn’t eat, period, and had to be trained to eat what we gave him, I was concerned about over-feeding or under-feeding him.

I knew that a serving of protein is generally smaller than most of us think: about the size of the palm of your hand. But the size of the palm of my son’s hand? I asked the doctor and he affirmed that to be true even with my 2 year old. This little compartment plate from Dr. Sears was very helpful. Each compartment has a picture of the type of food to put in there, so it’s a useful guide, similar to the plate icon above, but scaled for 1-2 year olds.


As my son’s ability to eat table food grew, I started giving him some control over his choices. I notice that I always start with the protein. “Do you want chicken or fish?” Given that half his plate should be vegetables and fruit, I should probably start by asking “Do you want broccoli or carrots?” He’ll probably answer: “chocolate.” Smart kid.

Speaking of chocolate, does that count in the dairy circle above? And how come french fries aren’t a food group? Don’t you think they should be?

Wordless Wednesday


Just a few random shots of the munchkin:


Looking for more great photos? Grab a cup of tea or coffee and check out more Wordless Wednesday entries at: SevenClownCircus

15 Minutes to Live


Today’s challenge*:

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

(Author: Gwen Bell)

It’s about love, after all. If I have only 15 minutes to live, then I want to tell my son that the meaning of life really is love. I’ve seen some amazing things and had an interesting career but in the end, nothing was as interesting or amazing as falling in love with your dad and then, watching as we both fell in love with you. It’s the oldest cliche in the world – “all you need is love” – but cliches are what they are because they’re true.

I had a friend who was once trying to help me get out of a funk. She wanted me to start a business I was passionate about. She had me list things in life that got me excited. I found that the very idea of being totally passionate about something was odd to me. The only thing I was passionate about, I told her, was finding a wonderful husband. That was an embarrassing admission, but true. I think she was disappointed in me. At any rate, it gave me clarity and not long after that, I met your dad and came to know true, deep, meaningful love.

“Go big or go home” is another cliche that I’ve found to be useful. In almost all my worthwhile endeavors, I did them big, I did them hard, I did them deep. When I was sad, I sobbed for years, not minutes. When I was happy, my smile nearly broke my face. I never drank but if I did, I assure you, I would have been a drunk. I remember friends in my early 20s who couldn’t stop talking about college, like it was the best time of their lives and it was all downhill from there. I never missed college. I did college. Big time. Parties, sorority, dates, hook-ups (although we didn’t call them that back then), and yes, I studied and graduated on time. I thoroughly immersed myself in the collegiate experience and so, when I was done, I was done.

I hope when my life is done I feel the same way. No remorse.

In my last 15 minutes, I want you to know that life just happens. People spend so much time being cautious, trying to avoid risk or failure. Don’t do that. Just don’t. You will fail. You will get your heart broken. And here’s the thing: no matter how hard you try to control your life, those “bad” things are still going to happen. So I suggest you get used to that idea now. Things will happen. Some of them good, some of them bad. It’s all part of life. Enjoy the good, rail against the bad, but know that it’s normal. If there’s a lesson to be learned, try and learn it the first time. Life has a way of repeating itself.

And now, an admission:  I lived terrified I would die too young and leave you without a mother. That is one of the hazards of having a baby at an older age. I told myself that the trade-off for you would be worth it: you have parents who are more stable (mentally and financially), who can afford to spend time with you and send you to good schools. But in the end, I probably won’t get to meet my grandchildren and that makes me very, very sad.

You, however, make me very, very happy. You have the brightest smile and best laugh. At just 2.5, I am impressed with how sweet you are. You’re kind and smart and curious and generous and already more than I could have hoped for.

In my last 15 minutes, I want you to know that I suck at math. I tried and had some years where I did OK through sheer hard work, but it’s really not my thing. I am a better writer than this little note would indicate. The timer doesn’t really bother me (I worked in television under crazy deadlines so I’m used to that) but hearing you wake up from your nap, crying out for me, means I’m going to have to stop before the timer goes off.

It’s about love, after all. And I love you and could care less about finishing this assignment properly.

*I’m participating in a blogosphere writing challenge: for the next 30 days (starting today), I will be responding to a provocative question/prompt. It’s all part of a celebration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book “Self-Reliance,” which I’m not sure I’ve even read. I ’m not doing this because I’m a big Emerson fan – although I suppose I’ll have to download some of his stuff to the Kindle now – I’m doing this because my friend, Alicia (here’s her blog), tagged me in a Facebook post, which is our generation’s version of a dare. And I’m never one to let a good dare go unchallenged . . .

Twins Secret Language


This has been all over the “Internets” and TV but just in case you missed it:

Tech Tuesday – Stream Movies Free on Amazon


Today, Amazon announced a service with unlimited streaming of over 5,000 movies and T.V. shows – FREE if you’re a Prime member, which I am. I have to be. I order so much from Amazon that I think UPS in my region would have to layoff a worker if I stopped.

Prime membership is $79/year and gets you free two-day shipping on a whole lot of things. I’ve even bought an umbrella on Amazon when we left ours behind on a trip. I just ordered a box of my son’s oatmeal, which was cheaper than at the store, and free to ship. And Parents, join Amazon Mom NOW if you haven’t already. It’s free and you get 30% off diapers and wipes. BEST DEAL ON DIAPERS OUT THERE. Trust me, I’ve done the research. (Better than Costco even.)

But back to the movies. Here are details on today’s announcement. Happy streaming!

Overheard: “Try again.”


My son has this odd cold: he sounds congested but no nasal drip. During the day, he is perfectly fine (no cough, no runny nose), but at night, that congestion drips down his throat and he coughs up a storm. He’s not sleeping well. Last night, I was holding him when one of the coughing spells woke him up. My husband was in the room, too. Our son’s coughing calmed down and he said, “no more coughing, Daddy fix it.” Chris said, “Daddy’s trying to fix it, Baby.” The coughing started again and our son said, “try, try again, Daddy.”

We always sing this little song when he can’t do something and is frustrated: “try, try, try again; you will make that task your friend; try, try, try again; you will get it in the end.” It was so cute to hear him tell his daddy to try, try again.

And a little heartbreaking, too. Cuz we sure wish we could fix it!

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Well That Was a Weird Call


My son has the Baby Cache Manhattan crib and dresser from  BabiesRUs. One of the reasons my super practical husband liked the crib so much is that it can be converted into a toddler bed, and later, to a double bed. I always had my suspicions that this is one of those “sounds like a great idea at the time” sort of things, but that nobody ever really does it. I remembered my nephew getting a race car bed as his toddler bed and I sort of figured part of the experience of transitioning to a big boy bed was letting the kid pick his or her own (tacky, cheap) bed.

But my son seems to like his crib so I went to Babies R Us and ordered the toddler conversion kit in early October. I was told it takes 10-12 weeks because it is a special order.

Anybody want to do the math and tell me how many weeks it’s been? 16 maybe? So I just called and spoke with a lovely woman at my local Babies R Us who explained to me that Baby Cache got hit by a lot of orders all at once and got backed up. But I was one of the lucky ones she said because my order status is showing as “approved” and my conversion kit is at their distribution center. How long until it might be delivered from their distribution center, I innocently asked? Very nice lady has no idea. A week? A month? Two months??? Yes, yes and yes.

UPDATE: the very nice lady just called me back, said she did some more digging, and thinks my rails should be sent from the distribution center to the store next week. (She really is very nice.)

My advice? Get the crib you love and if you think you’re going to convert it some day to a toddler bed, GO AHEAD AND ORDER THE CONVERSION KIT NOW. File this under Things I Wish I’d Known. Right next to: Did you know you have to register your 2-year old for next year’s preschool NOW?

2nd Birthday Bash – School Bus (And Other Vehicles) Party! – WFMW


We were so fortunate to have our son’s 2nd birthday party in our brand new house with room for all our visiting family. Christopher’s parents made the trip, as did his sister and darling niece. My dad came in. It was wonderful to see everyone.

As you may have heard, Hunter is obsessed with buses and trucks. Cars, planes, and trains are OK, but he really, really loves buses and trucks. So we went with a transportation theme. Here are the pics and links to where I got everything!

The “Kids’ Table.” Cones and construction hat (which we filled with fruit bars for the kids) from PartyCity. School bus chalkboard decal made by WallCandy. I found it half price on a one-day online sample sale (HauteLook, I think) but you can find it here if you want to pay full boat.

We got the school bus cake from a friend of a friend who does this as a hobby. I shudder to think how much this would have cost at a proper bakery! If you’re brave enough to try and make one yourself, I did find some tutorials online here and here.

See, PopPop? This is an octagon (Hunter’s favorite shape, I think!). Stop sign was a super cheap find at Party City.

Last year, we got an ADORABLE photo banner from Etsy seller MaryHadALittleParty. We worked with them again this year for another banner (GREAT keepsakes; we will treasure these forever), and also had them make this door sign and favor bags and tags. The designs came from their Go! collection. They added a bus for us and customized the colors.

The food was a hodge-podge. We made some stuff, bought some quiches and breads from Whole Foods. Served mimosas to the adults!

In the favor bags, we had miniature race car notebooks I found on Amazon, truck stickers from Party City, and these darling truck crayons from Etsy shop Red Elm Designs. They were so nice to work with and created a nice mix of vehicles for us.

Having fun with Nana and some of his new toys.

Last, but not least, we bought these cute thank you cards from JMCollections on Etsy. They are sitting right here, waiting for me to fill them out! (Our holiday cards are also sitting here.) <sigh> I’ll do better next year.

This post is part of the Works for Me Wednesday series. For more great tips, check out WeAreThatFamily.

Overheard: Things My Son Says


He was at the park with our wonderful nanny. I was at a meeting and texted her to give him a big kiss from me. She scooped him up, planted one on his cheek and said, “this is from mommy.” He smiled and said, “I  love you, Mommy.”

She texted me and it was all I could do to pay attention to the rest of my meeting. I wanted to get home and cover him with kisses!

Second Birthday Right Around the Corner



My son is obsessed with buses and trucks. He likes cars, trains and airplanes, but he LOVES trucks and buses. So it seems pretty obvious what theme we should have for his second birthday party. I’m thinking of going with school buses primarily but not sure I want a whole bright yellow party. Still working up ideas but here are some of our initial thoughts.

My husband’s going to make a sign similar to this but perhaps a bus stop or stop sign:

I’m going to buy some of the bus fabric on the right and use it in the invitations somehow. I haven’t figured out how yet:

I bought these giant school bus cookie cutters and will make sugar cookies as favors. Note to Ruthie: I haven’t iced a sugar cookie since I was, like, 12. Need your tips STAT! I also bought cookie cutters shaped like a train, an airplane, and a truck. These cookie cutters are HUGE. Maybe I’ll make sandwiches and cut them out in vehicle shapes?

Maybe these cute little favor tags:

I’d like to find a crossing guard uniform for Kirby to wear. She’ll kill me but she’ll probably do it. Kirby is my best friend’s 21-year old daughter who works all my parties. She’s the best hostess/server/set-up/tear-down person ever. Plus, she is very, very dear to me. Here she is at my son’s first birthday party:


I bought this very nice school bus chalk board decal that I’ll post somewhere welcoming everyone to the party. (Bonus: I got it half off on one of those online sample sites.)

school bus decal

So these are a few ideas we’ve come up with. If you have some more, please share them in the comments. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

First Day of PreSchool (Wordless Wednesday)




Looking for more great photos? Grab a cup of tea or coffee and check out these sites that host more Wordless Wednesday entries: SevenClownCircus, 5MinutesforMom, and WordlessWednesday.

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