cutest li’l ladybug on the block!

I painted an old babygrow with fabric paint for Shai’s bee suit then secured the little wings (also painted with fabric paint) with elastic. I wound yellow pipe cleaners around an alice band for antennae and then koki’d on the stripes.

For Ari’s ladybug wings I overlocked two ovals of red fabric, painted on the spots, then hand-tacked them onto an existing red shirt. I made the matching hat, which was a bit of a fiddle with no pattern and several unequal triangle scraps from the wings, but it seemed to turn out okay :-)

Both boys had a blast at the party and have returned home without lasting gender issues.

my little man the ladybug

After my encounter with the gender-biased entomological expert yesterday, I’ve been giving more thought to two-year-old Ariel’s dress-up costume for the weekend.

 

The idea of a ladybug is actually growing on me. Maybe it’s because Ariel already has red shorts and T-shirt that would lend themselves nicely to the costume. I didn’t want to let the nasty Shop Ass ”win”, but really, I know that I should give her bigoted attitude no credence at all, because it’s Ari’s costume and he should be what he wants to be.

 

I asked him this afternoon and he couldn’t decide. “Buttafly. No ledybug. No buttafly. I wan be a buttafly! I wan be a ledybug!” Helpful. So I’ve decided on the ladybug. He can always be a butterfly next time. If he wants to be.

on entomological gender biases

We’ve got a dress-up party on Sunday, and I thought two-year-old Ariel might like to go as a butterfly since he’s been playing with and talking about them a lot lately. The nature theme also appealed to me, and I liked that he could get creatively involved with the making of the costume by decorating the wings with paints etc.

But when I went down to the arts and crafts store I wasn’t prepared for this reaction:

Shop Assistant: I’m sorry, no. I’m not going to help your little boy dress up as a butterfly. It’s gross.

VeggietotMom [a little taken aback]: Er… wow… okay. That’s pretty… sexist.

Shop Assistant: No, boys must be spiders. Or maybe a ladybug or something.

VeggietotMom: A ladybug? Really? So a boy can’t be a butterfly, but he can be a ladybug?

[Irony apparently lost on Shop Assistant]

Shop Assistant: If you want to be a ladybug or something I can help you.

VeggietotMom [at a loss for a punchy, morally superior yet suitably Up-Yours closing statement]: Uh, okay. Thanks. I think I’ll just look around for a little while.

I was seriously fuming. Are people still so stuck in gender ruts? I felt like running back to the Shop Ass (her new, and apt, designation) and shaking her by the collar: “Look, it’s not like I’m foisting pink fluff and glitter on the lad – though I dare say he might enjoy that – I just want to help him create a fun, colourful costume without any socially engrained gender stereotypes. And it’s morons like YOU, Sista, who create insecure children who fail to live up to society’s prejudiced expectations and end up as unstable, anally-retentive adults who impose the same bigoted values on their own kids!”

But instead I skulked behind the face paint and fought back the tears. Besides, I could never pull off “Sista”.

Are butterflies gender inappropriate for boys? He’s brought home several butterfly pictures from playschool, so the qualified teachers don’t seem to think so. And what does the Ass think – that there are no male butterflies? How does she think the species persists? I think butterflies are awesome. They’re bright and colourful, a miracle of nature, and tons of fun to run and play with. And doesn’t the metaphor of flight have universal kiddie appeal? Do girls really have a monopoly on this incredible insect?

party countdown: the moment of truth

Well that’s proof that prayer does work – the weather held and we had an absolutely glorious afternoon at the park.

The Pooh Eco-Picnic was a resounding success on all counts.

Ari was surrounded by family and friends, he stuffed his little maw with cake and snacks, and had a rollicking good time chasing the birds across the lawns. He was showered with attention – which I think most kids prefer even to presents! – and he got to wear a special glittery crown. I mean, what more could a kid want? :-)

All set up and waiting for the guests to arrive – except for our very punctual cousin! Setting/packing up took under 20 minutes each, and everything fitted in the boot of my hatchback (the table-chair sets do fold up very small, though).

Birthday boy tucks into Nana’s cupcakes. Instead of throw-away plates, cups, party boxes, etc, we used food to carry the Winnie the Pooh theme. The Gingerbread Poohs were made with a standard teddybear cookie cutter and red icing T-shirts; the cupcakes were decorated with Poohs on toothpicks, and the Pooh cake (see below) was ordered in.

The fruit and veggie shapes were a hit – a nice, healthy addition to the cookies, cake and sarmies (which also went down a treat!)

Every item except the paper serviettes was recycled and/or recyclable – from the reusable plastic glasses to the juice cartons and water bottles to the yoghurt tubs of popcorn to the goodie bags to the banner in the trees and the crown on his head.

Feeding the birds with the stale bread eco-”goodie bags”. I love that nature can be as entertaining as a man dressed up in an oversized cartoon character suit.

One, two, three, BLOW!!!

Oh to be two – when a cupcake makes the world a wonderful place!

“Too… much… cake…”

And so the afternoon drew to a close with the whispering of a breeze in the trees and piles of stomped-on icing running a sweet little path between the picnic tables. The guests departed and we packed everything back into the car and headed for home.

Within half an hour of being home I’d loaded most of the plastic cups and platters into the dishwasher and thrown the sarongs into the laundry. I’d put the leftovers in the fridge, and the juice/yoghurt cartons in the recycling (after a quick rinse). I looked around my relatively clean kitchen and thought to myself, “Now that’s the way to have a party!” No mess, not much fuss, and 1GB of memories ready to be reviewed at leisure.

The waste generated by this kiddies party?

1 pack of paper serviettes.

4 or 5 matches (couldn’t get the darn candle to light…)

About 20 toothpicks.

I honestly think that’s it!

I can barely believe it! When I think back to how I felt a few weeks ago, standing in the party shop surrounded by mountains of plastic and polystyrene, I didn’t think it was possible to show kids a good time without a heavy toll of Disney detritis. But I think we succeeded.

Sure, it would have been simpler and less time-consuming to purchase a pile of plastic Pooh decorations than making my own. It would have been easier to buy chips and sweets than to cut shapes out of fruit and veggies. But it was well worth the effort.

The whole event was special. It was unique. It radiated the love that had been put into it. Factories can’t produce that.

And the party’s low eco-footprint is something of which I am particularly proud. Not only was the final waste extremely limited, but we also saved the carbon required to manufacture, package, and transport all the items we did not purchase. And I’m sure we saved a packet of cash too.

If we don’t take care of the earth, we’re doing our children (and grandchildren, and their grandchildren) a great disservice. So I think it’s fitting, when celebrating the life of a child and all the promise that the future brings, to do it in a way that honours the planet on which that destiny will unfold. Maybe I’m a bit sappy, but what the hell – today I am one very proud Veggietot Mom!

party countdown: 1 day to go!

Finishing touches being put in place and I’m very excited for the party tomorrow. Got ahead of the curve and cut out the fruit and veggies this evening:

Carrot hearts, baby tomatoes (yes, from the garden!) and cucumber stars

Watermelon flowers (with sultana centres) and naartjie moons

Weather forecast is 60% chance of showers in the afternoon and the back-up plan of cramming 20 adults and a handful of sticky-pawed toddlers into our living room is just starting to properly dawn on me…

party countdown: 3 days to go!

Feeling enormously productive in terms of preparation for the eco-party.

 

 

BANNER – TICK!

 

 

I made the banner by typing the letters (one per page) in MSWord. Then I printed out the lot (on the backs of previously used paper) and stapled them to a piece of string. I also Googled images of Pooh Bear to include in the banner. I got very clever and a little cheeky and decided that I’d worked so hard I needed a night off, so Warren and I left a babysitter in charge of our sleeping angels and asked her to help decorate the pages.

 

After the party, I can simply slip off the pages and recycle the lot – but it looks so nice I may just save it for next year!

 

CUPCAKE DECORATIONS – TICK!

 

 

Warren’s mom (Nana) is going to make cupcakes for the party, so I thought the easiest, cheapest, eco-friendliest way to decorate them would be with toothpicks. I simply printed out one page of Pooh’s (copy-paste-copy-paste-copy-paste x 20) and one page of “Ariel 2″s and then cut them out and stuck them back-to-back on a toothpick. Only 2 pages (both previously used) and recyclable to boot. I stuck one in tomorrow’s lunch here so you get the idea…

 

GOODIE BAGS – TICK!

 

 

Printed the message (on used paper), cut and pasted on. Finished off with a couple of stickers, popped in the fruit rolls and now I just need to add the stale bread on the day.

 

Yes, I’m feeling very please with myself indeed. I think I’ve more than earned a good night’s sleep. Now, if someone would just inform my youngest…

party countdown: 6 days to go!

Unfortunately I have nothing party-productive to report today. I’ve ordered the cake and sarmies, made the cookies, and sent out the sms-invites. I still need to make some decorations and fill the goodie bags.

But the weather was playing funny games today. When it was raining I was trying to keep my four-month-old quiet and my oh-so-very-nearly-two-year-old from scaling the TV cabinet, and when the sun decided to make a cameo, it was too irresistable not to go and play outside.

Our cherry tomatoes have just started ripening and Ari and I had a field day with sound effects as they “pick”ed off the branch and “pop”ed into the bucket! Even Shai loved the sounds and being outside in the soft sun.

Must get onto party prep tomorrow…

 

(and yes, for anyone who’s wondering, he insisted on wearing his pajamas today…)

party countdown: 10 days to go!

It’s been a wonderfully busy and crazy week having our friend to stay, but it’s meant that many things – including blogging and the party planning – have taken a back seat.

Today I decided that I needed to get my A into G, so I did a test run of the cucumber stars for supper, and they went down a treat!

Cucumber Stars, Strawberry Slices, and Bum-Ita (Marmite-Provita) fingers for dinner.

The Test Panel Approves the Cucumber Stars.

Then I made a batch of chocolate chip chickpea cookies for the party.

Nope, that’s not a typo.

My sister gave me a fabulous book for my birthday called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. It’s all about getting your family to eat more fruits and veggies by cunningly hiding them in delicious treats. So these cookies are made with chickpeas – high in fibre, low in fat, and a good source of protein as well as folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. All this now in a chocolate chip cookie!

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

They came out a little less crunchy than regular cookies, but there are enough chocolate chips to make them really delicious. I hope they freeze well!

For the recipe visit http://community.cookinglight.com/showthread.php?t=115247

The coming week continues on a crazy trajectory, so I’m going to have to do some serious juggling to pull together the party in between work projects, swimming lessons, clinic check-ups, houseguests and airport runs. Eek. Deep breaths and repeating Dory’s mantra from Finding Nemo: “just keep swimming… just keep swimming…”

party countdown: 21 days to go!

Grin and bear It!

Yes, I’m feeling a little like Superwoman in an apron this evening. Despite having been up since 04:30 with my favourite little alarm clock and having had a harrowing day at work, I came home and baked the cookies for Ari’s party so that I can pop them in the freezer and tick them off the to-do list.

I went back to the Party Shop yesterday to get the brown paper bags, Pooh stickers and napkins, and the cookie cutters. They didn’t have a Pooh cookie cutter, so I had to settle for a common or garden teddy bear, but I’m sure that once I pipe on red icing T-shirts they’ll be pretty convincing. I’m particularly impressed with the faces as I was worried they were going to turn out like Winnie the Picassos!

My mother thinks I am mad to bake things myself when “there are perfectly good bakeries in town!” Sure, she has a point, and that’s why I’m outsourcing some of the catering, but I don’t know – I still feel that there’s something wonderful about making something special for my child’s birthday. These are not just biscuits. They are a gift for my son, from my heart to his. Made with Mother’s Love, they are a commitment to his sensory and spiritual well-being.

And besides, baking can be very therapeutic… kneading away all the pressures of the day as I roll out the dough… cutting out all the little bears like so many tiny friends to keep me company of an evening (Hubby is at a meeting)… lovingly pressing in all those currant eyes and cherry lips… And as for the feeling of accomplishment as I take the steaming, smiling, spice-scented biscuits from the oven? Well, stick me in a cupcake case and call me Martha!

Perhaps I’m still star-struck with the magic of being a new mom. Maybe a few years down the line I’ll be so jaded by kiddies parties and school projects and lunch boxes and lift schemes that I won’t have the energy to bake cookies for my boys.

But maybe I can hang onto this delicious feeling of passion. Because I think that this is what being a Veggie-Tot Mom is all about: nurturing the creative force within us that brings us to a higher level of consciousness. After all, you can’t raise planet-conscious kids if you don’t cultivate consciousness yourself.

How we live our lives is in the choices we make. Sometimes it’s in the supermarket. Sometimes it’s in rush-hour traffic. And sometimes it’s in the kitchen. We use our physical, mental and emotional resources as best we can at the time, and if the world is a slightly better, happier, or tastier place when we’re done, then we’ve achieved our task as mothers.