Thrifty Mother’s Day Collaboration

We hope to see our family on Mother’s Day, and in healthier times I’d be greedily making plans. I feel that aside from visiting family, Mother’s Day is my turn to shine as a beloved tyrant. I get that one weekend to turn into Galadriel as temped by The One Ring. I get to chose the activities! I get to choose the restaurants! I get to plan the day! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR! What I’d really love is to get out somewhere in nature and spend the day with the family, filling my CF card with photos. There is only a slightly better chance of the drought turning over than that happening, so instead I’m making plans for different foods I want to eat, and thanking my lucky stars I’m lucky enough to consider eating them. I have two different dessert places I’d like to hit plus maybe a restaurant for take-out.

Since we are celebrating our moms within the framework of limited energy and budget, we naturally had to get creative with our gifts. The kids really had a great time making these, even Elias, who helped out, too.

After looking around on Pinterest for things we could make that weren’t too elaborate in the mess or energy department, we settled for filling out an interview sheet, making cards, and creating a collaborative portrait of each grandma. The interviews consisted of asking your child questions about their grandma in a fill-in-the-blank style. There were dozens of pre-made ones floating around, but we decided to make up our own. These were the statements we completed:

  • My Grandma is really good at…
  • My Grandma helps me…
  • My Grandma makes the best…
  • My Grandma and I like to…
  • My Grandma loves…
  • My Grandma always…
  • My Grandma is…
  • My Grandma is so special because…

I wrote down the answers and typed it up because Isobel’s handwriting is still really difficult to read, but if we do this again next year I’ll type up the beginning of the statements and have her write in the rest. The answers were sweet and hilarious–for my mom’s, as an example, she filled in “My Ama is really good at finding lost kitties to give to us.” We talked about the answers before we filled it out, but I was careful not to coach her or suggest things for the answers. I really wanted it to be genuine because to me that’s more meaningful. My favorite answer is when I asked her what she thought Olivia was good at. She thought for a second and said, “Grandma is really good at making conversation and decisions with Grandpa.” Not the typical answer, but I think it’s such a beautiful commentary on what she sees when she goes to visit them–she sees them talking about things and cooperating and sharing ideas as a couple. What a fantastic example they are for relationship role models.

A portrait of the artist, before he began working with mixed media in strawberry.

We talked about buying cards or making cards, and she chose to make cards, which always makes me happy. I prefer a handmade card any day of the week, but if she’s not into making one or doesn’t want to, I don’t think it’s right to force her. It’s always her choice, otherwise it isn’t really a gift. She decided to make heart-shaped Valentine’s-style cards with her new Pinkalicious stickers. Then she decorated it by “sketching.”

My favorite thing that we made was the collaborative mother portraits. We came up with this idea ourselves. She wanted to draw pictures of the grandmas but felt it was too daunting to do all by herself, so she asked me to start it. I drew the head and she finished the body. To include brother we gave him crayons so that he could color them in, making it a family project. He did a pretty great job until he decided he’d rather chew on the crayons, so I gave him a strawberry which he ate and artistically rubbed all over his highchair and body. I didn’t give her any direction and when they were finished it looked to me as if some of the grandmas are wearing capes and striking heroic poses.

I love how it all came together. I am not known for my drawing skills, but to a six year old my quickly drawn faces look great.

A little known fact about Mother’s Day, if you ask Isobel, is that it’s about all girls, so we’re really celebrating all the grandmas, myself, and her. She keeps calling it Girls’ Day. In her mind it’s a Western hinamatsuri. (This is what we get for letting her watch so much Pokemon.) Anthony and Elias get Father’s Day while she is already laying claim to Mother’s Day. She’s told me when she’s older she will have all these jobs, and “You, Mama, you can stay home and watch my kids!”

She’s committed to this idea of celebrating women in her life, which makes the Girls’ Day notion a little less self-centered than it might seem. Isobel made Mother’s Day crafts for my sister, an aunt, and even my friend Jenn, even though none of them are actually parents. It think it’s such a great gesture because she thinks of them a mother-figures. It doesn’t matter to her that none of them have physically had babies. It didn’t even occur to her that they wouldn’t celebrate them.

Even if my health doesn’t cooperate it’s going to be a great day because I will get to sleep in, call the shots, hopefully eat too many desserts, and kiss the smiling cheeks of some really cute children.

Isobel’s DIY Pichu Toy

I am not at all sure how we got on the subject, but a day or so after Isobel received her Pikachu backpack in the mail, Isobel decided that I was going to make her a Pichu toy. She had never heard of Pichu before, and since it’s not part of Pokemon’s standard 151 Pokemon, I naturally view it as an aberration of nature. If you stayed with me this long and don’t know what the hell a Pichu is either, god bless you, and let me sum up.

Isobel adores Pikachu, a magical electrical rodent creature from a game-turned-cartoon show called Pokemon. It looks like this, but without the baby inside. It is very cute and speaks in an adorable made-up language consisting of saying its own name over and over again. Despite the fact that I made it sound very terrible, it’s actually quite adorable, and in my younger days I actually loved Pikachu quite a bit and bought various yellow-and-black merchandise myself. I was younger, yes, but I was still technically a grown-ass adult. It was a different time.

Pichu here is the lesser-evolved, sort of ‘baby’ version of the Pikachu. Isobel had a few Pikachu toys, a Raichu plushy (the more evolved, ‘big brother’ Pikachu) and now wanted the Pichu to complete the set. And she had decided that I would make it for her. Being a generally foolhardy sort of person given to impulse, I said yes. Later I realized I had no idea how to do this. What, I wondered, did I get myself into?

Felt was purchased, the glue gun was warmed up, and I found a Pichu picture online and printed it to the size of about 4.5 inches tall. The sheet of felt its laying on in the above photo is about the size of a standard piece of paper. I set to work, first cutting out the printed image, taping it to a stiff piece of yellow felt, and then cutting it out. I used a combination of stiff and soft felt so the toy would be plush but not be too soft and floppy.

The stiff felt was easy to cut in precise lines and took no time at all. The more difficult part was duplicating this with the soft felt I used for the front of the toy. I recommend using very sharp shears for this. It took longer and made my hand sore so I had to rest it a bit after before moving on.

Next I needed some precise shapes for the ears, eyes and cheeks. At this point I cannibalized the pattern and cut out the tips of his ears to use as a guide to give me identical results for the ear parts.

To create the face I first laid the Pichu pattern on top of the felt and then I used an ink pen to poke holes through the pattern. From there I was able to connect the dots and draw the face on Pichu. This would let me know where to place the felt pieces. I again cut up the face of Pichu to get exact sizes for eye and cheek circles and the same for the collar.

While I was hard at work making her toy, Isobel was hard at work making things herself. For example, the made this for Elias, which she later told me was a diaper.

Sorry, buddy.

I glued the details to the top layer of felt and then glued the soft felt layer to the stiff one, leaving room to add some stuffing in between.

While we waited for Pichu to dry (the hardest part by far for Isobel) we made some other Pokemon-related crafts: a thrifted red plastic ball pit ball was transformed into a Pokeball via a black sharpie, and thunderbolt attacks were made using sparkly glitter cardstock that I had actually picked up for a separate project.

Finally, Pichu was done. I free handed the white spots inside of his eyes and drew on fingers, toes, his nose and mouth with a felt-tipped pen.

DIY Pichu Excitement

A video posted by Carrie Anne Little Big (@exlibris) on


Isobel thinks I’m a wizard. Really, I’m just a woman with a glue gun, some scissors and felt, and access to the internet. She’s trying to convince me to open a toy shop on Etsy called “The Kids’ Aisle” where we make and sell handmade toys together.

She insisted I take a photo of her with all her forms of Pikachu. “A family photo!” she said.

This project took about two hours and cost me maybe two or three dollars. The felt was around thirty cents a sheet, and I already had the glue gun, glue, scissors, and printer paper. I am not interested in making toys for the world at large, but I will gladly make toys for her all day.


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