Full disclosure here: some of my ideas are real duds.
Like the first time I made Mother's Day gifts with Jack, for the grandmothers, Great Grandma, and the aunts. We made mosaic flower pots by dipping tissue paper squares in glue and pasting them all around terracotta pots. Then we planted flowers in each one. Who could ask for a cheerier gift?
We did the project a few days in advance to allow for drying time. But between the wet glue, the moisture from the plant seeping through the porous pot, and remarkably humid weather, our pots never thoroughly dried. Oops. Not to disappoint my young gift-maker, we went ahead and handed out the gooey gifts at Mother's Day brunch, to everyone's sticky surprise. Oh well.
Another Mother's Day, I had the bright idea to make stepping stones for the mothers and aunties and grandmas. Of course, seven months pregnant at the time, it should have occurred to me that hauling around a 60 pound bag of cement would be, er, challenging. I had to get a little help in that department, but then we were off and running. We mixed concrete; added sea glass, broken tiles, and shells; and stamped names and special messages. And, having learned from past mistakes, we left more than ample drying time.
Once again, I failed to anticipate the gift exchange. A blunder, to say the least.
Our annual Mother's Day brunch was taking place at a waterfront restaurant in our town, which was further complicated by the fact that my husband thought it would be fun to take our little boat there to dock and dine.
So now, imagine me, belly-out-to-there, three-year-old in tow, lugging our gifts down to the marina, carrying each heavy stone across the gangway, and handing it over the side of a bobbing boat. (Note to readers: it is NEVER a good idea to fill a boat with stones. Not at all.)
I'll spare you the details of how these stones got off the boat and distributed in a crowded restaurant. I'll leave that one to your imagination.
But, if nothing else, these two disasters inspired me in my quest to create the ideal handmade Mother's Day gift: cheerful and portable. As I pondered this, I remembered looking through some seed catalogs with my son and seeing a product called "seed tape." It is essentially a strip of paper with seeds glued onto it. You plant the tape into the ground in its entirety, instead of planting each little seed one at a time.
Seed tape is made from seeds, biodegradable paper, and water-soluble glue. Hmmm. It occurred to me that we could use similar materials to easily make seed-embellished greeting cards. Construction paper is biodegradable. School glue is water soluble. And seeds can be used to spell out a heartfelt word like, "Mom," "Grow," or "Love."
We made a couple of test cards, planted them in the dirt, and were ecstatic when we had seedlings within days. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving -- this is it! And, if you make these with perennial seeds, your favorite Moms will actually have a year-after-year reminder of your good wishes!
What could be better? Oh yeah, the fact that they slip neatly into my bag -- no fuss, no muss.
Here's the basic how-to...
Non-toxic school glue (we use Elmer's)
1 or 2 packets of seeds (we found ours at botanicalinterests.com)
1. Fold a piece of construction paper in half. With crayons, draw a picture or write a greeting on the inside of the card.
2. On the front of the card, write a word or a name using a thin line of glue. Or, for pre-writers, make a scribbly design with glue, or just simply make glue polka dots.
3. Open the seed packet carefully from the bottom. Pour seeds into dish. (Set seed packet aside; you'll need it later.) We've made these cards with cheery Sunflowers, the aptly-named Baby's Breath, and colorful Cosmos (an ideal flower for busy Moms -- the care instructions say these flowers actually thrive on neglect!).
4. Sprinkle seeds on top of the glue. Gently shake off the excess. Set the card aside to dry completely.
6. Slide a popsicle stick into the seed packet, and fasten it on the inside with a piece of tape. Tape this plant marker to the back of the card.
7. The card recipient should plant the card, seed side up, following the instructions on the plant marker regarding planting depth, when to plant, exposure, and watering. Trust me, they will be delighted to see that this card actually grows!
Let me know if you try this one!
The theme of my life lately is this:
When I least expect it (and quite possibly when I need it the most) my kids are teaching me.
Case in point:
The other day, two-year-old Gracie stepped outside the front door and called back to me "Look Mom! A Kangaroo!" At the time I was busying about in the kitchen and, since our little neighborhood in the suburbs of New York is not know for its kangaroo population, I almost didn't stop what I was doing. I almost didn't pay the comment much mind. Almost.
Instead, I stopped. I went over to the door and looked out. Gracie was standing on the front porch pointing up to the clouds. With that wide-eyed expression on her face that kids get. (You know the one.)
When she saw me next to her she cried out again, "A kangaroo! A kangaroo!" And there it was. A kangaroo in the clouds.
Do you ever have those times where you wonder if what you do all day is of great significance in the grand scheme of things? With everyone else rushing around you, hustling, contributing to big things, prioritizing, making plans, taking meetings, moving and shaking, building, reaping rewards. What I do all day may be ordinary, by some standards, but I really like to think that I have always made it one of my top priorities to highlight the extraordinary along the way.
The movers and shakers sometimes balk when I do the stop and smell the roses thing. It slows down the works. Yes, I have been called a daydreamer. Since I was young, actually. And yes, it has been occasionally called to my attention that I, at times, have my head in the clouds.
Well now, apparently, my kids do too.
In fact, just a few minutes ago six-year-old Jack jumped on my lap while I was typing this post and read it to himself. He looked at the picture and said, "I thought it was an "F." No, actually it's a unicorn. Definitely a unicorn."
My children read the clouds and that makes me happy. Taking the time to stop and wonder opens your mind up to all the possibilities out there, big and small. It is a great way to see the world. And I hope they will find that this way of thinking will serve them well as they explore all the opportunities that this world has to offer.
That kangaroo cloud was a reminder to me that the small stuff is big, and the rewards are priceless. And being the person who is there to bear witness to them each day is an honor and a privilege. And stopping to smell the roses is time well spent.
And yet, I know there are those who would say: You got all that from a cloud? Oh, well. So be it.
I have such distinct memories of doing the "butter test" when I was a child.
And, since we spied the first buttercups of the Spring on our walk the other day, Jack initiated Gracie into the ritual.
It's simply this: You hold a buttercup below someone's chin. If their chin turns yellow, they like butter. (Um, yeah... who doesn't!)
The secret yellow glow is either the result of sunlight reflecting off the super-shiny petals of the buttercup, or, as I speculated, magic.
However you look at it, it's a ritual that's definitely worth passing on.
And I really do believe there is magic in those little moments shared, especially the ones that bring you back to your own childhood. Don't you?