Our first children’s book: The Good Guy Lullaby

2 May

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So – I’ve mentioned before that Good Guys play a pretty big role in our household. I use the term to help guide my kids’ understanding of right and wrong, and even to help them learn the alphabet (“G is for Good Guy.). It’s no surprise to me, then, that my first book incorporates Good Guys, as well.

The Good Guy Lullaby is a colorful bedtime story that allows young children to send the shadow monsters off to bed each night to ensure a peaceful night of sleep. The book features rich illustrations of sweet ― and sleepy ― creatures like dinosaurs, dragons and vampires. And with Good Guys always watching over, nighttime is more fun, and less scary, than ever before. (Click here for a preview.)

The book was illustrated by the amazing painter Hillary Scott and I had such a wonderful time working with her to bring these sweet and silly characters to life.

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You can learn more about The Good Guy Lullaby at www.goodguylullaby.com. It’s available on Amazon.com.

xoxo

PS: Go, us!!!

Sew your own Captain America shield backpack

24 Apr IMAG1613 (1)

So – with Captain America: Winter Soldier being released this month, I felt like it was time for our Captain America costumes to get a little re-vamp. We decided to start with the most important element – the shield – and to create a handy backpack while we were at it. When I say these Cap-Packs are easy to make, I’m not kidding. I started them Thursday afternoon, and they were ready in time to head to WonderCon 2014 on Friday morning. (Less than ONE DAY!)

Trifecta America: homemade Captain America backpacks

Trifecta America: homemade Captain America backpacks

The Cap Pack
It’s incredibly simple to create a Captain America backpack just like Captain Rogers. Just cut some circles, find (or sew) some straps, and go! A quick, cheap, *awesome* costume item that the kids can actually use!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 large red circles (I chose felt because it holds it shape and the colors really pop)
  • 2 large red circles (rip-stop/nylon) for lining
  • 1 smaller white circle
  • 1 smaller red circle
  • 1 smaller blue circle
  • 1 white star
  • 2 straps (sew or purchase – I used brown felt because it was cheap and easy)

A note for other mamas: don’t be afraid to create your own pattern! Once you find the right-sized circle to get you started, creating the other pieces is super simple. I started with a super large circle for me, and a smaller circle for the boys.  I lined my backpack with rip-stop nylon to make it even sturdier.

Total time: About 1.5 hours a piece!
Total cost for the Cap Packs: About $10 a piece

Um ... chills.

Um … chills.

The New Costume:
Captain America sports a darker costume and different chest design than the last movie. To keep it simple, I ordered navy blue tshirts from Target and glue-gunned some gray trim to mimic the new design.

Total time: About 10 minutes!
Total cost for the shirts: About $8 a piece

Busy bodies: Reading comics and saving the world at WonderCon 2014.

Busy bodies: Reading comics and saving the world at WonderCon 2014.

That’s it – you’re done!

xoxo,
Super Hero Mama

There are *always* warning signs

9 Apr

There are *always* warning signs. If you choose not to see someone – or not to see what’s happening – it doesn’t mean the signs aren’t there. “There might be bullying.” “There might not be bullying.” “They put ‘the kid’ in a police car and took him away.” If you don’t even know a person’s name, how would you know if he is suffering? I absolutely hate that this violence keeps happening. I hate just as much the media coverage that follows. Everyone is a hero once they stop a crazy person. Where is the hero who recognized this kid was suffering and stopped the pain in the first place?

“He was shy and didn’t have many friends.” Guess what – so was I. *So AM I.* Please stop saying “shy” or “introverted” like it’s a sign of mental illness. It’s not. And if you took more time to get to know us, you’d see that.

“His parents are partly to blame.” FYI: boys don’t always share the shit they’re going through, especially if they are being demeaned and humiliated. Even if he did, they can’t be at school to stop the harsh things that happen. We say the phrase “Kids are cruel” like it’s something we have to accept and get on with. How about teaching our children not to be cruel to begin with?

“Good thing he didn’t have a gun.” Yes – yay! And it’s actually kind of amazing. Especially in PA, where (from what I remember) we actually got the first day of hunting season off each year as a holiday. Unfortunately, guns clearly aren’t the only problem. *WE* are the problem. *WE* are the only ones who can fix it.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook, I was on Xanax for months. I could barely leave the house without having anxiety attacks, worrying someone was going to mow down my children. I would lie in bed at night crying because I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop imagining what the children had gone through. How scary it must have been – and even worse, how some of them were so young, so innocent – they didn’t even know how scared they should have been. Then, I was heartbroken. Now – two years and however many shootings/killings/stabbings later – I’m angry.

This week I’ve been working in New York, interviewing kids at an international high school about their lives. I literally sit down with them one by one and probe them with personal questions. “What’s the hardest part about being here? What’s the best part? Is it hard to make friends? Is it fun? Does it suck?”

What I want to do right now, more than anything else, is to go to Franklin and sit down with every single student who goes there. I want to ask them. No bullshit. No lies. No cover-ups. Was he struggling? IS ANYONE ELSE STRUGGLING? Because if they are, we need to know now.

May the birthday be with you …

30 Sep
Happy Birthday! Ewok Invite

Happy Birthday! Ewok Invite

So – it pains me to say this, but my baby is officially a … boy. On Sept. 23, he turned 5 years old, and we decided to throw a special “Ewok Party” (i.e. Star Wars party) to help him celebrate. The following are a few of the simple things we did to bring his party to life.

First up: The invitations. Awhile back, a friend recommended a website called Spoonflower, which allows you to design and print your own fabric for a (fairly) reasonable price. I decided to use it to screen-print home-designed Ewoks (created in Illustrator) and make stuffed Ewok invites for his buds. (The actual invitation details are rolled into a stick in the Ewok’s backpack.)

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You’re invited!

Next up:  Make your own lightsaber station! A co-worker shared this idea, and given my fondness for duct tape design, I had to nab it. All you need are swimming noodles (cut in half), duct tape, and scissors. Set up stations and let kids and mamas alike go to town creating their own perfect lightsaber.

Welcome to Blake Dean's lightsaber station!

Welcome to Blake Dean’s lightsaber station!

After spending hours jumping in a bounce house in the warm Cali sun, the kids needed a little boost … enter light saber popsicles. It was a bit difficult to find popsicles long enough to accurately represent the length of a lightsaber … but I finally found some care of Kool Pops. I’ll never settle for regular popsicles again!

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Last but not least: our bean bag toss. We wanted this project to be as labor-free as possible, so we re-purposed an old pallet with a Star Wars theme. Combine that with some simple bean bags (Star Wars fabric and dried split peas!), and you have one out-of-this-world game.

Score! Star Wars bean bag toss

Score! Star Wars bean bag toss

Star Wars bean bags

Homemade Star Wars bean bags

Oh, and don’t forget the cookies. Special thanks to Sweet Jill’s in Seal Beach for making these rad Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan lightsaber cookies. As powerful as they are delicious.

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Sparkly lightsaber cookies from Sweet Jill’s

All in all, an awesome day with amazing people – and tons of out-of-this-world memories. I’d say the Ewok Party was a success.

xoxo,
Mom Solo

Ewok love

7 Aug

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So – since seeing Return of the Jedi at Comic Con 2013, Blake has developed an intense love of Ewoks. I decided to make him one, inspired by this simple pic I found online.

I started out with a quick sketch and ordered some supplies. It wasn’t long before the fur was flying … and I was falling in love with this little fuzzy and Force-ful creation.

The plan.

The plan.

Once I got my vision pinned down, it took about 1.5 hours to finish the project. Some quick lessons learned for those seeking to create an Ewok of their own:

  • Unless you have an industrial-sized sewing machine, plan to become besties with your glue-gun. It’s the only way to secure the hole used to insert stuffing (at least with the extra-shaggy fur I chose for the project.)
  • Head outside. This specific fur sheds like crazy. Go outside to avoid a fur-storm on your floors and clothing.
  • Rather than adhere your stick to the Ewok’s hand, give him a wristband so that his stick can be easily inserted/removed as needed. (Cuddling a stick = ouch!)
As they say in Ewok-ese, Nuv! (Love!)

As they say in Ewok-ese, Nuv! (Love!)

Time: About 2 hours
Budget: $20
Supplies: ½ yard shaggy fur, ¼ yard wool felt, two eyes, 1 nose, 1 stick, yarn

xoxo!

Comic Con 2013!!!

24 Jul
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Han Solo, Mom Solo and Baby Solo … may the Force be with us :)

Comic-Con 2013 – where to begin? As a family, we’ve been looking forward to this year’s “Big Super Hero Party” since last year. As a mama, I’ve been secretly stressing about making sure this year’s event proved to be as special and memorable as last year’s for my little super monsters.

First off: the costumes. As always, I let the kids guide our costume-making decisions. Having recently discovered the awesome-ness of Star Wars, Blake Dean decided we would all dress as Han Solo for the big day. Meet the magic that is Han Solo, Mom Solo, and Baby Solo (duct-tape guns in tow.) Turns out it was a winning choice. I can’t describe the happiness I get when our costumes make people smile/high-five/thumbs-up, or just offer a little “Good job, mama!” *One of the best feelings ever.*

Second: the Con. Attending Comic-Con with kids means realizing that many of the things that make Comic-Con so cool (amazing panels, ridiculous giveaways) are just not do-able with children. Still, that isn’t to say there weren’t plenty of magical moments to be had. When it comes to kiddos, the little wins often prove to hold the biggest and best memories …

Han, Yoda and Obi-Wan reporting for duty.

Han, Yoda and Obi-Wan reporting for duty.

The Force was with us!
The kids saw Star Wars for the first time about a month ago, and it’s been the central focus in our house ever since. I think Blake’s head almost exploded when we met Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Darth Vader.

We made the news!
Rhett Lee being named one of Yahoo News’ 20 Best Baby Superheroes of Comic Con. Seriously – how rad is that?

The boys have no idea how cool this is now ... but someday they will.

The boys have no idea how cool this is now … but someday they will.

We met Stan Lee!
We were in the Marvel booth when a staff member came over and said, “Don’t leave! Something awesome is about to happen!” A few minutes later, they roped off the booth, and Stan Lee walked out. He signed this cool poster for everyone who happened to be there. Rad!

Our hotel rocked!
At first we were miffed that we got stuck at a hotel 6 miles from the convention center. That frustration quickly subsided when we found that we had a private beach, playground, and an amazing view. Oh, yeah, and the hotel (the Kona Kai Resort) was showing Star Wars by the pool all week during Comic Con. What are the chances?

Han Solo gets Minion-ed

Han Solo gets Minion-ed

We got Minion-ed!
An artist from Minion-Me.com was offering free black and white portraits outside the convention. was offering free black and white portraits outside the convention.

Nothing to see here, folks! Our guns are tagged and safe!

Nothing to see here, folks! Our guns are tagged and safe!

We got our weapons checked!
Comic Con insists on inspecting every single weapon that comes through the door of the convention hall – even our blasters, constructed out of foam and duct tape. The inspectors were awesome and took our inspection super seriously – leaving a lasting impression with the monsters.

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Sponge Bob Square Solo

We got swag!
From Sponge Bob glasses, posters, and Kreo sets, to Hotwheels Legos, free comic books, buttons, posters, books and more – we got tonnage! And the boys were in love with every single piece of it.

The Walking Dead Escape

The Walking Dead Escape

We fought Zombies!
I was also psyched to have a chance to experience the Walking Dead Escape. Though not scary (in the least!), it was way more physically challenging than I expected. In the end, I got executed (shocker!). The sweetest part was my son worrying that his mama was lonely when I was fighting zombies on my own …

Hobbit Village, care of Legos

Hobbit Village, care of Legos

Once again, the outdoor events proved to be some of my favorite, from artists and giveaways to Smurf Village and the Vikings, Hello Kitty, Bates Motel, Scooby Doo, and Hobbit Village (built completely out of Legos!) exhibits.

Lying in bed Sunday night (after a marathon 3.5 hour ride back from San Diego), I asked Blake if he had a fun weekend.

“Mommy – I had so much fun, I can’t even tell you!”

An emotional Mom Solo got teary-eyed. Sounds like a win to me. J

xoxo

Baby Solo ... dreaming of a galaxy far, far away ...

Baby Solo … dreaming of a galaxy far, far away …

And a few more pics of our exploits below …

Lowe’s Build and Grow: The Month of Monster Mutt

11 Mar
Uber proud: Blake Dean and Monster Mutt

Uber proud: Blake Dean and Monster Mutt

This past weekend, we had a chance to take Blake Dean to Lowe’s Build and Grow for the very first time. In theory, I guess I’ve always known that the various home improvement stores in the area hold kids’ clinics throughout the year – but it took a Monster Jam theme to get our family out to this month’s clinic. (And I’m so glad it did.)

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Hanging out in a room full of hammer-wielding tykes … it definitely could have gone either way. :)

On the whole, I was incredibly impressed by the quality of this project. Not only was the Monster Mutt kit free, kids also got a free apron, patch, and certificate of achievement when they finished building it. I’ve truly never seen Blake Dean so proud of himself – so proud that he literally hasn’t put Monster Mutt down since he came home. (Seriously – eating … sleeping … bathing – never.)

The only down side: these events fill up FAST. As soon as we got home, I checked for upcoming events in March/April, and they were both already booked within a 50-mile radius. I guess I’m not the only mama to realize what a cool idea this is for little boy and girl kiddos alike.

Overall mama rating: 5/5. But you best book quick if you’d like to share this experience with your little monster.

xoxo
jsf

The Walking Dead – alive and kicking (ass)

4 Mar

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On Friday, we had the chance to see the 2013 PaleyFest presentation for The Walking Dead at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Despite some lagging sales for this year’s Paley events overall, this event was sold out (shocker!) so we were psyched to be lucky enough to land tickets. A quick overview of my fave moments:

Steven Yeun on Glenn: All he wants is to be safe … with Maggie … “in a field of food”

Andrew Lincoln admitting Rick had made some questionable decisions this season (you think?)

Laurie Holden’s intrinsic attachment to her character, and her sisterly relationship to Danai Gurira off-camera

Seeing a first-hand glimpse of this Sunday’s episode (Go, Carl!)

Collective swoon when Norman Reedus walked in.

Chris Hardwick being … Chris Hardwick

The feeling of Paley events overall. The last one I went to was for Dexter, just following its awesome Season 4. The experience was similarly endearing, offering a chance to see actors being so open / honest / funny / caring / sweet / humble – and absolutely thankful to be part of such a kickass series.

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To watch the full PaleyFest event via Hulu, click here.

Attending this year’s PaleyFest for The Walking Dead:

Robert Kirkman, Executive Producer
Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer
Dave Alpert, Executive Producer
Greg Nicotero, Executive Producer
Andrew Lincoln, “Rick Grimes”
Danai Gurira, “Michonne”
Laurie Holden, “Andrea”
Steven Yeun, “Glenn Rhee”
Norman Reedus, “Daryl Dixon”
Scott Wilson, “ Hershel Greene”
Emily Kinney, “Beth Greene”
Moderator: Chris Hardwick, Host, The Talking Dead

xoxo,
jsf

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Learning Legoland

1 Mar
Rawr! Welcome to Legoland!

Rawr! Welcome to Legoland!

Honestly, Legoland has never been on my personal Bucket List. I’m not a huge amusement park girl (even Disneyland doesn’t do it for me), but I knew the boys (all three of them!) would love a weekend in the building block capital of the world. So when a deal came up on Plumdistrict, I jumped. Two nights at the Grand Pacific Palisades (on the Legoland California campus in Carlsbad) and two-day park hopper passes … all at about half the price we’d usually pay for a weekend at the resort. Here’s my take as a mama of two boys as I learned the ins-and-outs of the Legoland adventure.

Good to know:

Check the calendar. Legoland is closed Tues/Wed throughout the winter months. We knew this well in advance, but there were lots of angry parents showing up at the gates on Tuesday assuming the park would be open. If you do happen to arrive on a dark day, just head over the Sea Life Aquarium. It’s open even when the park is closed and was surprisingly awesome despite some lackluster reviews I’d read online. (Lots of interactive exhibits … tastefully designed … perfect size for small legs … and still lots of Legos – everywhere you look.)

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Take a break? Never. Lego playstation at SeaLife Cafe.

Wait until they’re 36 (inches). There are a few rides at Legoland that smaller monsters will enjoy, but most require kids to be at least 36 inches tall (and 40-42 for the larger roller coasters). If you’re taking two kids of different ages, make sure you take another adult with you in case one kid has to wait on the bench until the ride is over.

Blake Dean got his official "Driver License" after finishing this ride.

Blake Dean got his official “Driver License” after finishing this ride.

BYOF. Some parks don’t allow you to bring your own food, but Legoland is cool with it. Save yourself some way overpriced water, juice and sandwiches by packing your own.

Allow 2 days, especially if you have kids under 4. The park isn’t overwhelming large, but we definitely started skipping attractions in the late afternoon to get through it all (the park closes @ 5 p.m.). If you really want to 1) enjoy it, 2) not stress, and 3) shop for Legos without screaming at your kids to hurry up, plan for at least some Legoland fun on Day 2.

Get ready to get active. One of the coolest things about Legoland (in my opinion) is that the rides were all super interactive, forcing you to pedal your way over a roller coaster, pull your way up a rope, or drive your own car around a racetrack. This is not a sit-back-and-enjoy kind of park. You’ll get a workout on every single ride.

Beware the sales pitch. The Grand Pacific Palisades resort is a timeshare and came with some prompt pressure to attend a sales session as soon as we arrived. (Literally – we didn’t even have our room key, and they were already trying to pressure us to listen to their pitch.) Though the resort itself was nice, this really rubbed us the wrong way. (“Um – do you not see that I’m holding a hungry/screaming 2-year-old right now, and that my 4-year-old is trying to throw himself head first into the pool???”) Not the most parent-friendly situation in my opinion. They did upgrade us to a two-bedroom villa, however, so I can’t complain too much about service overall.

No matter what you do – don’t overplay the Star Wars card! I knew there was a Star Wars component at Legoland, but I didn’t realize it was just a display of Lego-ized Star Wars characters and space ships. Oops! Don’t get me wrong – the displays were cool – but I had definitely told my sons there’d be rides and interactive Star Wars exhibits. Get it straight, mamas! Or your kids will be as disappointed as mine.

Mini me! Millenium Falcon @ Legoland California

Kids: “Mommy, can we ride that?!?!?!” Me: “Um ….” Millenium Falcon @ Legoland California

Last but not least: do your best to get a bargain. A hopper pass is $82 a pop for kids 3-12, and even more for grown ups (i.e. Legoland is NOT a cheap way to spend the day). Try to find a deal in advance if you know what’s good for you.

xoxo
buildin’ mama

It’s in the bag …

15 Feb

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So – a couple months into 2013, and we’ve already lost the cool lunch bags I made for the kids after Comic Con 2012. Time for mama to make some new ones! With the help of this super-easy pattern, I was able to make both of these little buggers in about 1.5 hours. Super simple, easy to wash, and the perfect size for little eaters. But the best part is how excited the boys were to carry them to school. Even with all the fancy lunch boxes most kids carry nowadays, they still think it’s more fun to carry one I made for them. Talk about a good feeling.

xoxo

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