Plants vs Zombies Party Sneak Peek

Garden Warfare: favorite family friendly game

Garden Warfare: favorite family friendly game

About nine months ago, Mini Gwinn, at the ripe old age of three and a three months, began playing video games on PlayStation 3 with us regularly. We have a pretty ridiculous set up that’s conducive to family play time. Two PlayStation 2s, two PlayStation 3s, one long, low couch, and a basement where he can yell without waking his baby brother two floors above us. As he grew, so did his skill and interest in what he played. He’s a better car driver than me, better racer, and his enthusiasm is infectious. And his interest was largely wrapped up in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for a long, long time.

I knew what had to be done. We had to throw him a PVZ party, especially since it would be the first birthday he’d really remember.

I started planning months ago, playing around with ideas, digging up other PVZ parties and mulling over what had been done. Etsy has hundreds of shops that sell Plants vs. Zombies invitations, paper crafting, and digital files, but for the most part, I wanted to have my hands in what was done for my almost four year old. I used the above image and made his invitations in GIMP (Linux/ open source version of Photoshop). The wording was such:

Garden Warfare is coming to (Mini Gwinn’s) Fourth Birthday!
Meet us on October 31st to Defend the Garden from Zombies!

Wear your Halloween costume to protect your brains

Let (Mini Gwinn’s) mom or Crazy Dave know you’ll be there for reinforcements

(phone, address, etc)

And since it’s a Halloween PVZ party, we had to give the kids what Halloween is all about: the candy. We’re doing a pretty big candy buffet, and in future posts, I’ll include the food and candy list, tags for the buffet, and decorations for the buffet table. For now, though, I want you to check out these 20 x 30 paintings on foam board I worked up.


This one is my favorite


Crazy Dave, with room for writing, either for the front door or the bounce house


The chomper, arguably Mini Gwinn’s favorite

Disco Zombie

I made a mini projector for my phone using a small magnifying glass and a shoe box, then traced the outline of the pictures onto foam board. I didn’t exactly do it free hand, but I’m also not exactly an artist, so I can’t take all the credit. But, I did only by the basic primary colors in tempera paint and mixed them all to match, so I feel like that’s some artistic accomplishment? Ha, anyway, I went with the original Plants vs. Zombies game instead of the console Garden Warfare, because frankly, the original game is much easier to draw and paint than the console game graphics. Either way, MG was pretty excited. We’ll use these around the house for decoration.

One more foam board use: Bonk Choy’s Bonk a Cup game. I love the poke a cup game from carnivals, it’s easy, kids like it, and it took me ten minutes to assemble the cups and glue them to the board. Bonus, it gives them something else to do while waiting to eat more candy or jump in the bounce house.


More to come later! Plus, I’m thinking of making this party planning gig a public thing- if you read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

This too Shall Pass

“Boo boos heal.” – Mini Gwinn

Sometimes his three year old sentences give me pause and remind me of the wisdom hidden in simplicity.



Nostalgia for Pinewood Derby Racing

Earlier this week the little guys and myself were on our mecca to Target to gather supplies for our block party this weekend. The sun was dancing across the lake’s surface as the boys played peek a boo with one another, and I was thinking of how lucky 2.0 is to have such a loving big brother. As this thought struck me, an old fashioned hearse drove past us. Granted, I see hearses several times a week because of our proximity to a large cemetery, but this one caught my attention. It looked almost exactly like one of my pinewood derby cars my dad had made for me as a child.

That probably seems macabre for a six year old girl to want her pinewood derby car to be a hearse. However, genetics aside, my dad and I share a dry, odd sense of humor, and we both thought this was a great design for my Awanas derby race. He painted it black with silver windows and gave it a glossy sheen, even going so far as to draw little feet prints on the back window. I remember that year my older brother’s pinewood derby car had a traditional wedge shape. Our dad had painted it red with yellow detailing, possibly flames or lightning bolts. One of the endless benefits of having a dad with world class paining talents is that our pinewood derby cars always looked fantastic (he really is incredibly talented. I’ve seen his cars featured in car shows. People travel from Florida to Tennessee to have him do their Vipers.).

I was pulled back into the present by nearly identical peals of laughter in my backseat. Their voices and faces, so similar, are shared by the sibling relationship my brother and I have. And as much as he and I tend to see black and white, we have so many differences as well. This made me wonder how different my own boys will be from one another, and how they’ll grow together into adulthood. Will they have similar temperaments, or will they continue on the paths their personalities are already on, diverging from one another? Mini Gwinn exhibited control and restraint at such an early age, remaining content and contained even now. 2.0 is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode the moment something goes amiss.

My hearse didn’t place that year. My brother’s race car went on to the finals. The year before, my school bus hadn’t done so well, either. But the next year, my milk jug car placed second overall, surpassing my brother’s. Looking back to that age, my dad let loose the reins and gave me freedom to be myself. That’s something I can forever say about him- he never pushed for me to be anything else (except during the crayon incident). I hope I have that same strength as a parent to my guys, to give them the room to be themselves, even if it doesn’t always fit into my narrow picture.

Master Bedroom DIY

Taking some notes from Pinterest and more time than I ever wanted to spend, I’ve done some updates to our master bedroom that have my need for expensive furniture satiated (for now). I’ve almost mastered the DIY Pottery Barn black that people on the interwebs seem to love so much, and I can proudly say my hot glue gun skills are on par with a bad seamstress’.


I found the headboard on Craigslist and rolled up my sleeves (just kidding, it’s been in the high 90s here. No sleeves these days), picked up paint from Home Depot, and snuck in layers of Killz primer while the boys took naps. When it was all said and done, no sanding required, two coats of primer, two coats of paint (Behr Black Suede in eggshell), and two coats of sealant (Minwax satin finish spray paint) was all it took to make this thing look a little more high end.



So let me tell you about those curtain panels.


The windows in our bedroom are something like seven feet tall. I don’t know what the actual measurement is. They’re really big. And curtains to fit whatever size they are end up being expensive. So I saw a post on Pinterest on how one lady made custom sizes for her windows using cheap panels from Walmart and fabric, and decorated with ribbon. So, because I’m not a heathen, I went to Target and bought four navy light blocking panels in the 84 inch length (each panel was $9, and I had a 20% off coupon for all four, plus my 5% off card. They ended up being around $28).  Since I can’t sew and I already had two white cafe curtains, I bought another set for $12 at Target and hot glued the white cafe curtains to the navy panels. Add some off white quatrefoil ribbon from Hobby Lobby, and bam! Four custom length curtains for $46 total.


Our dressers were finished before 2.0 was born, but I never talked about them on the blog. And since I don’t have any of the old pictures detailing how I painted them, I can tell you it was the same method as the headboard, same paint, etc. They were a set on Craigslist for $75 we bought right after we moved into our old house. The colors on them, gold and cream, were bad enough, but they also smelled awful. Luckily Killz primer knocks the smells out. I added some new hardware and these old French provincial dressers now look a lot more chic. Well, they did, until Mini Gwinn started leaving milk stains all over them.



One day I'll replace the nightstand, but until then...

All in all, we spent very little to create a bedroom that doesn’t resemble a college dorm room. I still see plenty of things I’d like to fix (dream flooring- herringbone hardwood!), add, etc, but for now, I’m just happy it’s coming together.




Cage the Beast (or, “make your own baby gate tutorial”)

Lately 2.0 has garnered the new nickname of “beast”. Perhaps “Juggernaut” would be more appropriate, but “beast” is easier to say, and it rolls off the tongue more quickly when calling out to a child who scales wide open stairs with reckless abandon. He’s unstoppable. Last week Captain Laser Pants and I were standing in the kitchen while he played by our feet. We talked over coffee, saw him walk off, and thought nothing of it. Ten seconds later we heard an unmistakable rattle of the baby gate at the top of the stairs. He went from kitchen to playroom in less than twenty seconds.

The gate at the top of the stairs is built to withstand some shaking, kicking, and general toddler/ child interaction. It has a lock/ lift mechanism that requires some mental faculties that a baby doesn’t typically possess. It’s between two walls of sheet rock at the top of the stairs, and it works well for its place. However, at the base of the stairs, it would destroy the wood balusters.  Enter the PVC and fabric baby gate idea.

A few years ago I saw this idea on Sew Many Ways but I never had need to make one of my own with Mini Gwinn. Then 2.0, excuse me, the beast, came along, and he is nigh unstoppable, and something had to be done.

PVC measured and cut with 4 90 degree elbows

PVC measured and cut with 4 90 degree elbows

I went to Home Depot and gathered supplies I didn’t already have on hand. I bought two 10 foot PVC pipes, 3/4 in, and asked a nice employee to cut them in half for me. I also bought 4 90 degree elbows and 4 small carabiner clips. The total cost was something like $11.46.

Once 2.0 went down for a nap, I measured the height and width of our staircase and cut the pipe down with a mitre saw in a mitre box. The pipes aren’t perfectly identical, which is ok, because the elbows add some safety in the measurement. I ended up with a gate size that’s just about equal in width as the staircase.

Hot gluing fabric to the pipe

Hot gluing fabric to the pipe

For this there are two options, one is making a slip cover or envelope style of fabric, and the other is what I did, which is just gluing the fabric directly to the PVC piping. On the Sew Many Ways tutorial, she sews a slip cover. Since I don’t sew, my way worked just fine for me and didn’t require an insane amount of accuracy. The fabric I used here was a torn bed sheet that I was saving for a project (always finding a way to re-purpose stuff to save cash, heh) like this one. I covered both sides to give it a bit more substance (because I forgot a middle bar and a T joint, oops).

Basic gate finished

Basic gate finished

At this point I could have been done with a basic gate. I probably should have ironed the sheet. Whatever. Mini Gwinn is demonstrating the height, which I like a lot. But, because complexity is one of my seventeen middle names, I added a few more steps to jazz it up a bit and to add more security in case the beast figures out he can slide it out the side of the iron spindles.

The clips and grosgrain ribbon, with key rings

The clips and grosgrain ribbon, with key rings

clever, eh?

clever, eh?

On the back of the four corners I attached grosgrain ribbon with a key ring. The key rings attach to the carabiner clips, which in turn attach to the iron spindles for some extra insurance.

Bad quality, idea comes across though

Bad quality, idea comes across though

So to make this just a little prettier than an old bed sheet, I used some left over fabric I had from making our kitchen curtain. Gambit decided he needed to take a nap on it while I was gluing the edges. Thanks, bud.

Gambit isn't bright.

Gambit isn’t bright.

He was super into helping me. And by helping I mean asking me why he couldn't sit on my lap while using a hot glue gun.

He was super into helping me. And by helping I mean asking me why he couldn’t sit on my lap while using a hot glue gun.

I’m pleased enough with the end result, considering it took about an hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish. Let’s see how 2.0/ beastie handles it when he wakes up from his nap and gets veto-ed when he tries to go upstairs solo!

finished product, ta da!

finished product, ta da!

Responses to “You Have Your Hands Full”

Last May, when I went to my ob-gyn for my four week postpartum follow up, an elderly woman watched me struggle with a screaming newborn and a precocious three year old. I balanced my wallet on top of the stroller as I swiped my card at the hospital ATM to have cash to pay for parking. Mini Gwinn was trying his best to sit patiently on the bench while 2.0 wailed his banshee scream. She stood silently for several seconds before saying, “My, you have your hands full.”

We’ve all heard that, at some point or another. Our hands are, quite literally, full, as we toggle the weight of 60+ lbs. of human beings in our arms, grocery bags, an inevitably ringing cell phone, and a surprise poop wafts in the air. The stares of single women bore into the backs of our heads, and their thoughts are broadcast on their faces. And we want to say something to defend ourselves, to give ourselves some credit as the mom- world collides with the real one, but we’re sleep deprived and juggling lives and food, so we chuckle nervously and agree. Some of us dwell on what we should have said.

I suppose it’s a sentence of good intentions. At least that’s what my mom says. ” They’re just trying to think of something to say.” My ungraceful response to the elderly woman mentioned above was, “And you have on a red shirt.” And that was that. I didn’t smile, I didn’t say “thank you,” and all my Southern manners flew out that hospital parking lot window, because my life doesn’t need a commentary when I’m having a rough moment(s). In this instance if there isn’t anything immediately kind to say, don’t say anything at all, especially “you have your hands full”. We all already know.

But people still say it. Just about every time I am out with my kids. So instead of replying with something obvious about their appearance, e.g. “your shoes are brown”, I’m coming up with a list of responses, some more gracious than others.

“Wouldn’t it make you uncomfortable if I told you I was pregnant with twins?” – bonus points for grinning madly

“I can’t think of anything better to have my hands full of. Except maybe donuts.”

“These aren’t even my children!”

“These aren’t even my hands!” – cause, why not be extra weird?

“I have even more stored in the car, in case of an emergency.”

“If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.” – I read this from another blog, but I can’t find it, otherwise I would cite it appropriately. Sorry!

What do you say when you’re confronted with badly worded “kindness”?

Where’s My Happy Hour

It’s 7 AM Friday.

I was up five times last night with 2.0. He’s teething, runny nose and screaming included, and I collectively slept about four hours last night. CLP woke up with him around 7 this morning, and I woke up to the baby dropping my phone on my face, effectively giving me a fat lip. They left the bedroom so I could wake up in peace, and when I went to our bathroom, discovered that the cats had knocked over cans of food into the litter box, scattered litter across the floor, and somehow covered themselves in their own poop.

It’s 8 AM Friday.

Captain Laser Pants tells me he wanted to wake up earlier to work out, but felt groggy at 7. I remind him he went to sleep at 9. He changes the subject and asks me why I was looking at jobs on LinkedIn last night. I tell him I’m bored and tired of being boring. He reminds me we live too far out in the country to find childcare and that we can’t both commute. For once he doesn’t talk about the financial aspect of me going back to work.

He travels regularly now. This month has only had two trips, thankfully, but the past several months have had 2-4. The hotel he stayed in while in DC was gorgeous, from what I was told. And in September he has a week long trip to California complete with bikini- clad trade show babes and borderline exotic dancers on stage during presentations. Of course I’m unhappy about this trip, largely because I don’t want to be alone with our children and pets in our house for seven days. But as much as he says he hates to travel, and I believe him, it’s not as though he’s going to the armpit of Arkansas and staying in a Motel 6.

It’s 9 AM Friday.

Tonight he has a happy hour for his office at some hip bar close to their building. He doesn’t drink, but the social aspect is important, so he’s going. He looked nice in his blue polo when he said goodbye to me, freshly changed from a skimpy nursing tank and short shorts into lounge clothes. At least I had managed to brush my hair. Mini Gwinn loudly proclaimed he had to pee, 2.0 had just run into a corner, and the cats were on the table as he walked out the door.

And at this moment I asked myself: where is my happy hour? Where is the designated celebratory hour in which I can unwind, watch coworkers drink too much and get handsy with each other, and congratulate myself on a hard worked week?

I’m a stay at home mom. There is no celebration, no break, no promotion, no bonus. There is no glamorous trade show in a beautiful city, there is no male equivalent to a bikini model flirting with me, there is no end of the work day. And there’s no sympathy. One end of the spectrum thinks I’m lazy and stupid, and I’m in my place, and the other end of the spectrum believes I’m living the American dream. But I’m not lazy or stupid, and I don’t feel like I’m living my American dream. One person’s idea of the ideal doesn’t always translate to others.

It’s 10 AM Friday.

Mini Gwinn is taking pictures on his Kindle and turning them into coloring pages. I’ve just changed my 500th poop diaper while 2.0 is standing (yes, he stands for diaper changes. And tries to knock over pictures during the process). He’s going down for a nap now. The dogs are chasing the scent of the cats through the house. While I do my matronly duty and nurse the baby for his nap, I’m mulling over what it is I want to do, career- wise, life- wise. The petty part of me wants CLP to feel the same way I do when he goes on a trip. I want him to know how lonely and isolated I feel. Maybe some of the jealousy that stirs when someone of the opposite sex gets my conversation, my charm and intellect, and waking hours for a change will resonate with him, put him in my shoes. But the not petty part of me wants fulfillment and gratitude for my incessant, tireless efforts. And this poor dead horse is beaten again and again, because my needs still aren’t being met, despite my requests. How many times do I have to say “I don’t feel valued” before something changes?

And I can see the eye rolls through the screens and monitors. “Motherhood is fulfilling, there is gratitude in doing the most important job” blah blah blah. For the record, I believe that it is my most important job to raise my children properly, but I don’t believe it is the most important job worldwide. It’s not nuclear physics. Plenty of stupid people procreate; it’s not the “hardest job in the world”. It just has the longest hours and the worst pay imaginable. I love my boys endlessly. But I don’t believe I am cut out to continue down this path of housekeeper and short order cook for much longer. My brain is bored. And I am boring. And I’m done with both.

2.0 is a Toddler


He’s putting the Bourne Identity in the fridge.

He has a preference for straw cups over sippy cups.

He’s walking. Oh boy, is he walking.

And he’s talking. He says: mama, dada, Fletcher, truck, kitty, ‘what’s that’, hi, yeah, no, waves bye, and so many other things I can’t even remember right now.

It’s official. 2.0 is more toddler than baby. Sure, he’s still relying on me for nap and bedtime nursing sessions, and he’s not completing full sentences yet, but he’s not an immobile loaf lying on a blanket anymore, either.

And I’m so, so glad.



Mini Gwinn is doing some awesome things lately, too. Like being the kindest big brother ever. And impressing us with his math skills. I am one proud mama.


We’re having twins…

Uh, sort of. Not humans. Thank goodness, no more humans.

Interwebs, meet Boris and Batman.


I’m not really a cat person. Super allergic, they’re weird, not to mention not nearly as smart and sweet as dogs. But, for cats, these little kittens are pretty cool. They’re playful, great with the human boys in the house, and absurdly cuddly. It’s like they know if they rub all over my face I’m going to go into allergic overdrive.

Anyway. They’re eight months old, pretty small (this picture doesn’t show just how little they are), and a lot less hygienic than the dogs. You may wonder why I was on board for getting cats in the first place. After losing little Lenny Lou at Christmas, CLP wasn’t feeling like he had any pets of his own. Jovee and Gambit were my dogs before we were married, and as much as he loves them and vice versa, they aren’t “his”. I suggested a puppy, but I don’t think he’s ready for that yet. Secondary reason: we thought we had mice in our basement (we don’t). But cats are good for that sort of thing, practically speaking.

So now we have two kittens. Originally they were named Batman and Robin. I wanted to name them Bullet Tooth Tony (Bullet for short) and Turkish; husband and mini Gwinn were against it. Mini Gwinn kept calling one of them Boris, so now their names (according to the three year old) are Batman and Boris Tooth Tony. Whatever. Most of the time I call them ” big one” and “little one”, because although they are brothers, one of them is quite a bit bigger than the other. 

So now it feels like I spend the majority of my day cleaning up poop from small living beings or feeding them so they can all make more poop for me to clean up.

Hurray, I’m the poopsmith.



If You Give a Boy a Party – First Birthday!

2.0 turned one on Friday and we had a blast celebrating him with friends and family on Saturday. Here are just a few pictures from the party, themed from if one of my favorite children’s books, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

I made all the decorations except for the lanterns, honeycombs and the fans over drinks. Pretty much everything came from the dollar store. Most of my party ideas were saved to my Pinterest board.

For food: I found glass jars at Hobby Lobby and filled them with different kinds of cookies. The gallon jar was filled with a few kinds of chocolate chip cookies, one smaller jar had butter cookies, lemon sandwich cookies, and raspberry jam sandwich cookies, and the other smaller jar had sprinkle sugar cookies filled with oreos that my mom made. They were a hit! I bought sprinkle cupcakes and smash cake at Target, as well as the cookie cake, which they decorated with green and blue polka dots and sprinkles. Then I added a homemade bunting (found the plain flags at Hobby Lobby) to the cake. We had pinwheel sandwiches and mouse shaped chicken nuggets from Costco, and meatballs in BBQ and grape jelly sauce. Chex mix and cut fruit rounded out the food. Lemonade, bottled water, juice boxes and mill boxes were out (and of course coffee!), and we had a few types of flavored milk straws in old fashioned milk glasses. The cold drinks were in a big bucket filled with frozen water balloons, the end result was super cute.

Since there aren’t licensed products for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I had to be creative. I was lucky and found milk and cookie die cuts at the dollar tree, and those were the base for most of the decorations. I (probably illegally) took pictures of pages from the book and used those as well, like for the drink signs or for the mouse coloring. I found some really cute corkboard stick on letters on clearance at Target and used them for the banners, labeling the cookie jars (one said “nom mom”, one ” crunch” and one “cookies”), etc. With some ingenuity the party decorations came together and represented the book theme without spending a million dollars in licensed products (mickey mouse, anyone?).

The kids had a great time, the adults were smiling, and birthday boy was all giggles the whole day. Thank you everyone who made this party so special by being there!


*edit with more pictures


Mantle decorations


Stuffing mice into boxes for party favors