this year’s diy christmas gifts, part 4: soft nesting bowls


IMGP9726 the funny part is that i distinctly remember giving myself permission to buy more gifts this year and not feel like i needed to make as many. ha! oh well, i loved making each of these gifts. these bowls were definitely the most time-consuming, but i actually chose the project because i like to have a yarn-based project to work on during long meetings and car rides, preferably one that doesn’t take too much thinking. this cute project fit the bill! although you have to pay attention while you’re crocheting the base (and increasing stitches at a regular rate), once you get the base to the size you want, crocheting the sides is pretty mindless. again, this project was discovered on pinterest, but with a few lazy, non-crocheter shortcuts for me (i mostly ignored any stitch instructions in the pattern and just did the whole thing in single crochet–no fancy border at the top or anything). it would probably look nicer if i’d actually taken the time to learn the other stitches and followed the pattern, but i honestly don’t think the little girls who received these sets (my niece and the happy baby herself) will care at all. in case you’re curious– i made one set with red as the largest and purple as the smallest (see above) and one set with purple as the largest and red as the smallest (see bottom photo below) so that i wouldn’t run out of the yarn used for the larger bowls. also, i don’t really recommend using this yarn for crochet–it’s quite splitty. but it does look all pretty, shiny, jewel-toned and it’s relatively cheap too!IMGP9725i got a text yesterday from my sister-in-law with this photo of the toy in action:


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this year’s diy christmas gifts, part 2: monster “rubbing” plates

IMGP9448 IMGP9452i saw this great idea on pinterest and decided to put my own spin on it and created this “monster maker kit” for my nephews. i tried it out and although i wasn’t wowed with the results (the evenness of the height of the glue makes a difference, fyi), the concept is solid and i think it will still provide a fun activity for two little boys who love to try out crafts. also, made from cereal boxes, hot glue and a set of restaurant crayons all tucked into a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag, this gift was practically free (shhhh! don’t tell!).

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this year’s diy christmas gifts, part 1: squishy circuits kits

IMGP9707one of my favorite library projects this year was squishy circuits. the short description of this project is– use homemade playdough to conduct enough electricity to light up some led’s.

IMGP9709the longer description (and much more eloquent answer to the question, “why?”) can be found in this ted talk. lots more explanation of the “how” can be found at this website.

but if after following those links all you want to do is find out how you can make an awesome diy squishy circuits kit to give to all of your friends between the ages of 4-104, then this is the place for you!  here is what i chose to include in each kit:


battery holder with wire leads.  i chose the 4 aa battery size.  the on/off switch was a nice feature, but you also need a screwdriver to open this one up to replace the batteries. i also included the batteries in the kit.

IMGP9711led lights. i chose the “party pack” for the best prices for the most lights.  occasionally, some of the lights just don’t work or get blown out right away.  it’s nice to have some back-ups.  plus… party!

micro-vibration motor. this item was the trickiest to make work. might need a stronger battery pack to be really effective?

if i made more in the future, i’d also add some sort of buzzer.  really, you can add any component you want, as long as it has a positive and negative lead and can run on whatever battery power  you’re including in the kit.

round metal tin.   i found mine at michael’s crafts, but can’t find it on their website. i actually would have preferred a square or rectangular tin, but could only find round, so that’s the shape i made my labels. if you don’t mind designing your own (or having round labels on a square tin) it doesn’t matter what size or shape your container is as long as all your materials fit inside.

printable labels

printable instructions and dough recipes (i printed these on a full sheet of adhesive label, then peeled off the backing and folded the page in half so that the printing would be double-sided and sturdy. then i cut them out into an accordion-fold string of circles)

here’s a few photos of the kits in action (with a little help from grandpa):

IMGP9498 IMGP9502enjoy!

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movie monday: cooking with the beebees

a few years ago, i read a book called sadie and ratz to the happy little dude. it was a book about a girl who’d decided to name her hands “sadie” and “ratz.” her hands sometimes got into trouble, but it was never her fault–it was sadie and ratz’ fault! a few weeks later, the happy little dude’s hands got nicknames of their own. one was named “lloris” (where the “ll” sounds like a soft “dj” sound, as in spanish) and the other name took awhile to settle in, but eventually became beebeebobbi. after a few more weeks, both hands became simply, “the beebees.” interestingly enough, the hands of several of his best friends have also become nicknamed “the beebees,” especially when they are similarly misbehaving. but the beebees aren’t always naughty. sometimes they’re very helpful and rather chatty. here’s a sneak peek into the time they helped us to make a batch of pancakes.

Cooking with the BeeBees from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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movie monday: flashback to fall

oh dear.  the house of happy has been… distracted.  and also sick.  as in–we will likely all be asleep by 9:00 this evening.  so, i’m interrupting the [long pause in the] 12 days of toddler app picks (please chime in if you’ve been dying of curiosity to see the last 9 days of his picks! otherwise… i might just run the highlight reel and be done with it) to bring you a movie monday.  even this is old news, but it’s easy to post and right now, i need easy.  without further ado…. cow chicken and a walk in the woods:


A walk in the woods with Cow Chicken from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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App picks by a 4 year old: A 12 Day Countdown (Day 2)

Gabriel's 12 days of apps: Bamba Post Office

A video posted by @carissaabc on

i’m doing a “12 days of apps” series on my work blog, so i thought it might be fun to ask the happy little dude what his top 12 apps are.

his #11 pick was bamba post office. you can watch the video above to find out what he likes about the app.  i like this app because they include some very silly gifts (can of worms, anyone?) and some very silly gift wrap options (a hot dog for a bow?! ha!) so there’s a generous giggle factor.  i also love the early literacy element of writing a note to tuck inside the gift and (like the happy little dude) i love that you can add in your own photo for the recipient.

find out my #11 pick here!

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App picks by a 4 year old: A 12 Day Countdown (Day 1)

Gabriel's 12 days of App Reviews: Toca Town. Here's my pick:

A video posted by @carissaabc on

i’m doing a “12 days of apps” series on my work blog, so i thought it might be fun to ask the happy little dude what his top 12 apps are.  this was a tricky process for him (narrowing it down, ranking them…so difficult and somewhat confusing!) and honestly, there are some apps in the list that i think are in the wrong spot (or shouldn’t be on the list at all because i don’t actually see him playing with them very much), but i tried my best not to meddle and let the list be his own.  with that caveat…

for #12, he chose toca town. you can watch the short video above to find out his favorite thing about toca town.  i like toca town because it is so open-ended and there’s so many silly things you can make the characters do. there’s a ton to see and explore and play with.

if you’d like to see my #12 pick(s) check it out!

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movie monday: first movement!

this is kind of old news by now (and she’s already much faster than this), but little miss happy baby is mobile! here’s a peek…

Chickadee + the Monster from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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mooooovie tooooosdy: the happy baby eats

i missed the deadline for movie monday, so i decided to go with assonance instead of alliteration and have movie tuesday.  there’s a bit of a backlog of posts that are written in my head (with photos taken and everything!) and movies to be edited…. here’s one i finished last night.  i’ll add it to the “milestone movies” shelf.


Isadora’s First Food from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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balancing “screen time”

IMGP8598i’ve been thinking a lot about the healthiest ways to incorporate apps and technology into our family life. many parents deal with the issue by setting a daily time limit, and while that seems so nice and tidy and easily quantifiable (there’s even an app for that!), i know that if i were playing an interesting game and i was just about to complete a challenge and someone told me i had to turn the game off right at that moment …. i’d whine and complain and possibly even throw a giant fit too. i would also feel like i had a right to use up every minute of my maximum allowed screen time every day, as though if i didn’t use it all up, i’d be getting cheated out of my rightful screen time.

if the happy family tried that option, i’d spend large portions of my day having conversations about “just 5 more minutes” or “but i’ve only had 25 minutes of screen time!” or “that screen time didn’t count because i didn’t like that game” or “what if i called granna on facetime, would that count?”* and other “referee” questions in which i’d be constantly re-interpreting and re-creating arbitrary rules.  that makes me cranky.  plus, those questions are not teaching my child the bigger life lesson of how to include technology in a balanced diet of daily activities.

my friend carisa kluver created this wonderful model for teaching kids how to balance their own media diet (follow this link!  read the article!), but i found that it was too abstract for me to explain to my 4 year old, so i broke down the first component — balance — into a system that he could understand and for now, i’ll judge the quality and engagement components myself.


i started by listing big category names for the activities in our lives and i came up with seven: play, go outside, make something (art, food, etc.), screen time, quiet time, chores (or “housework”), and read (or write, or listen to a story, etc.).  with the happy little dude’s help, i created 7 illustrations (on circles of paper) to depict each of those activities.

IMGP8607(i was especially excited about the illustration he drew of a train going through a tunnel when i asked him what we should draw for “play.”)

IMGP8611then i talked to him about how these are seven different activities we can include in our day and that we need to try to keep them in balance and not just do one or two for the whole day. i realized as i was trying to explain the “balance” concept with my hands that i didn’t think he’d had much (if any) experience with a set of balance scales, so that analogy was a bit weak for him.  since then, we’ve played together with this app and he’s referenced the same “balance” hand gestures i used originally, so i think he’s getting it at some level.

IMGP8590either way, there have been at least several occasions where he’s asked for screen time and i’ll say, “i think we’ve had enough for now, it’s time to do something different” and, instead of fussing about it, he’ll hold his hands out to either side as though weighing something and say, “because otherwise we’ll be out of balance, right mom?” and then he’ll run through the different balance circles in his head (now that we’ve done them often enough that he has them memorized) and he’ll pick an activity that we haven’t done yet today.  we don’t do every activity every day and we’ve already had the discussion about how we can’t do six of the activities for 5 minutes each and expect to get 2 hours of screen time (although i’m guessing we’ll have to have that particular conversation more than once).  it’s not a perfect system (there are still more requests for screen time than any of the other circles) but for now, his response has been even more positive than i’d hoped.

IMGP8578here’s the thing … talking about the balance circles helps me, too.  it forces me to not just obsess about trying to get all the housework done in one day.  it reminds me to go outside with him more often.  i don’t have to just fall back to saying, “go play while i put the baby to sleep,” instead i can say things like, “why don’t you go have some quiet time while i’m putting the baby to sleep and afterwards, you and i can make something together?” it also helps me to realize that i don’t need a giant list activities for us to choose from every weekend, but having one or two special “make something” activities in mind is a good idea (but if i need last-minute inspiration, there’s always my pinterest board). in other words, the circles keep me in balance as well.  and the best part?  i feel like the conversations we have about screen time now are helping him form habits that will serve him well the rest of his life, instead of just honing his negotiation skills haggling for more minutes.  they’re helping me improve my own screen time habits as well!

if you’d like to use balance circles similar to ours, i redesigned a few, cleaned up the illustrations a bit and made a pdf which you can download here.  if you’d like to create your own balance circles, you can download a blank form here.  i’m sure some of our circles will change over time and we’ll add new ones too (“homework” comes to mind), but for at least a little while, we’ll use the balance circles.

*by the way, the answer to this question is: “facetime with granna does not count toward your daily screentime except if you spend the whole time playing tiny bang story with granna.  then, that’s just working the system, buddy.”

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