Monday, December 16, 2013

The Unknown

Me: "When you were little, I didn't know how much fun you'd be."
Connor: "But now you do."
Me: "You're right."
Connor: "You just don't know when."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Veggie Tales

Overheard conversation between the two kids:
Connor: "How come I get the most vegetables and the least dessert?"
Cara: "You do not get the most vegetables. You get the least!"
Connor: "Well, why? Don't mom and dad want me to grow big and strong?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Doctor Who-loween (Part 2)

Once Connor found out that Cara was going to be the Tardis from Doctor Who for Halloween, he firmly decided that he wanted to be the Doctor.  Now, just which Doctor he would be was another question.

Again, for those of you not in the Doctor Who loop, there have been eleven different men playing the role of the Doctor throughout the show's fifty years, each with their own distinct look. My kids have only really been introduced to the last three, so the choice of which Doctor wasn't so difficult.

Connor opted to be the most recent (and youngest) Doctor and, after we ordered and received the sonic screwdriver (a non-weapon the Doctor uses which also varies from Doctor to Doctor) for the eleventh Doctor, it was easy to see why. We all took turns playing with this part of his costume, pressing the buttons to activate the sound and light.

Unlike Cara's intricate Tardis costume, Connor's costume was relatively easy.  I found a blazer at a used clothing store and sewed brown felt patches onto the elbows. I had fabric leftover from when I made the bow ties for Cara's shoes and I made a bow tie for Connor (and watched a YouTube video to show me how to actually tie it). A button-down shirt, skinny tan pants, and brown boot-like pointy shoes and he was all set.

The Doctor and his Tardis
Now, in addition to the recreational Halloween costumes, both Cara and Connor had costumes for a month-long Halloween project that they participate in at school. Each child in first through sixth grade selects a hero to study. They spend the month of October doing research on this person, making a portrait of their hero, and writing a report which they then present to the class at the end of the month.

Connor selected Dr. Seuss as his hero this year. Originally, he had been very reluctant to the idea of dressing up as this man, so I didn't worry too much about a costume. We had a sport coat and tie in our dress up stash that he could use and I popped the lenses out of some tortoise shell sunglasses to look like the glasses Dr. Seuss wore.  It must have been during the course of researching and writing that Connor changed his mind about dressing up. The night before Halloween hero day (or Halloween hero eve, as I'm going to call it) when I had laid out what I had pulled together for a costume, Connor insisted that he have a Dr. Seuss beard.  So, what do you do when a donkey who usually doesn't want to participate actually is excited about doing so? You make a beard out of felt, elastic, and yarn, of course!
The beard. A few choice words were uttered during the making of this beard. Mostly directed at the spiderweb of glue and fingers and yarn and felt fuzz.
When asked why Dr. Seuss, he replied, "He's the only famous person I know."  
Now,this is Cara's sixth Halloween hero and, this year, she selected Elizabeth Cady Stanton to research. Out of all that she learned about this amazing and outspoken woman, what stuck with her was how Elizabeth stood her ground, even when all those around her tried to convince her to give up. I listened to her talk with such passion about how horrible it was for Elizabeth's father to have said continuously to her that she couldn't do things because she was a girl. And the lightbulb went on for her. Wow. Women really were not treated well back in those days. Look at how far we've come.
Women's rights activist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I asked Cara if her father or I had ever told her that she couldn't do something because she was a girl. She thought for a moment and said that, no, we never had. Since Connor was present for this conversation and was listening intently, I decided to include him. "Have we ever told you that you can't do something because you're a boy?" This brother of an older sister says, "Paint my fingernails."

Two steps forward, one step back.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Did I Do That?

Me: "Do you think maybe you shouldn't touch those?"
Connor: "Well, NOW I won't."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Doctor Who-loween (Part 1)

It's no secret. My family is a bunch of nerds. If I was in denial before about this fact, my children's choices for what they wanted to be this Halloween would have been the face-smack of reality.

For those of you not familiar with the sci fi series "Doctor Who", these two series of posts may be a letdown. Unless you like super cool and resourceful use of materials to make kick-butt costumes. In that case, you should totally read on.

Cara had decided that she wanted to dress up as the Tardis from "Doctor Who". Those outside of the Who-verse loop, the Tardis is the blue wooden box that the Doctor uses for time/space travel. (Man, I am really resisting the urge to expound on that description and talk how the Tardis is much more than just a space ship and about the episode when the Tardis manifested itself as a woman and now I want to say that resistance is futile, which is a whole other can of nerd worms, so I'll just stop.)
So much more than just a time and space travel box. It's bigger on the inside.
Instead of doing a literal box costume, we had seen several interpretations of the Tardis that we were inspired by.  Because of my love of blue and my mother's thoughtfulness in keeping my old prom dresses, I actually had two royal blue dresses to choose from. Cara chose the strapless dress that I wore to my junior prom as the garment we would turn into a Tardis. 
Cara (age 6) in the dress that would be her costume six years later.
Cara did not want me to make too many actual changes to the dress itself, so we looked for a bustier to use over the dress instead of having to sew directly onto it.  We found a black girdle-type thing at a thrift store for $5. We used white scrap fabric to sew window panes to resemble the ones on the Tardis door.
The windows.
The size of the bow on the backside of this dress from the eighties seemed to be trying to compensate for the lack of shoulder pads and puffy sleeves in this strapless dress. Out came the seam ripper and off went the bow.
No more butt bow.
Most of the fabric from the deconstructed bow was used to sew wide straps onto the dress. Oh how I wish I had done this alteration before junior prom. Hours spent trying to keep my dress up would have been saved.
Much more 12-year old appropriate.
So far, we were into this costume five whole dollars. Man, I love a good deal.

I had to break down and buy white fabric paint but a good friend of mine (whose craft room is one I whole-heartedly covet) had some black satin that we were able to use to make a sash. I used letter stencils that I made to paint the sash and three coats of paint. Once this was done, it really felt like the costume was coming together.
Fabric paint ($1) on black satin fabric (free - thanks, Katherine) that I sewed into a sash.
One of the websites I like to visit had posted someone who made Doctor Who shoes. I promptly filed this idea in my brain (surprisingly, in an area of my brain that actually retained this idea) and talked Cara into using these as her shoes.
Brown flats that I painted to look like the Doctor (from the neck down, at least). Flats from the thrift store ($4), red fabric $2 (the rest of which was used for Connor's costume), and buttons from my giant button stash.
Originally, I had made a head lamp myself which was okay, but not perfect. Craig was very tactful in offering to upgrade this part of her costume and I heartily supported this project. 

Using a recycled cardboard canister, a couple of electronics pieces he bought at Radio shack (including the LED light), a switch and wires he removed from an old toy car, power tools, and a soldering iron, he got a MUCH improved head lamp for Cara's costume.
LED light with a switch that Craig designed and built. From scratch. With tools. It was glorious.
Once that was done, I used a sheet of vellum and some ribbon I bought at the craft store ($3 total) and most of the leftover bow fabric to cover the headband and lamp.  With the black netting that had also been a part of the bow (it was unsed inside to help it maintain its stability in its giantness) and some iridescent blue beads I had in my craft stash, I made a little fascinator to attach to the head piece.
Head lamp fully assembled with fascinator attached.
And then it was all finished.
Cara in full costume with trick-or-treat bag.
Cara "being the box" with her friends dressed as a Dalek (evil robot from the DW series) and the 10th Doctor.
We are all so thrilled with how great this turned out.  I love that it was truly a family project.  What's even better is that a couple of her friends from school got inspired by her choice in Halloween costume and made some themselves. They were three little Whovians at her school's Halloween Ball. This nerd couldn't be prouder. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Dozen Years

Last week was Cara's 12th birthday.  While many people lament that time with their children has gone by so fast, I honestly can say that this journey has taken twelve whole years. Even when I was digging around on our family website, looking through pictures of Cara when she was much younger, I do not find myself wishing she was one of those ages again. I like her at twelve. Twelve is just as great as eleven and ten and nine and all of the other year-olds she was.

During a visit from my mother when Cara was 6 months old (and excuse me if I've told this story before), Craig and I had my mom watch our daughter for a few hours. When we came back to get her, my mother said that Cara had been great but added, "She really needs you to watch her."  I stifled a "Well, duh, she's only 6 months old. Of course you need to watch her."  My mother must have seen that expression on my face because she went on to explain, "No, she actually WANTS you to watch her."

Looking back on that statement now, my mother had summed up my daughter in one short sentence.

So, here are some pictures of us watching her over the past twelve years:

The night she was born, she slept six straight hours. The nurses later scolded me for letting her sleep so long. But we had both been through 22 1/2 hours of labor. We totally needed that sleep. This was just one of many times that Cara made other parents jealous of how easy of a child she was.
Cara was born just a few days after my grandmother's 90th birthday.  The first great-grandchild.  Though Really Great (as we came to call her) was not too thrilled about our choice in names for our daughter (she instead referred to Cara as "Cutie Pie"), she adored this kid beyond words.  Since one of her favorite pictures of me when I was little was one of me looking into a mirror, this picture was taken just for her.
This was Cara's "get excited" face. It was one of our favorite baby tricks. One which we asked her to do repeatedly. And she would happily oblige each time.
This is a peek into her room-keeping skills. Though the books have been replaced with clothes, the results are fairly similar.
I stupidly used the "I think I hear Santa" to try to get her up to bed. This only managed to get her more worked up. She called out through the railing in a long, dramatic voice (the hands are to help her voice project), "SAAAAN-TAAAAA!"
We usually were instructed to announce her before she'd come out and put on a performance. "Presenting, Cara the dancer/singer/magician/musician/gymnast" or whatever she happened to be at that moment.
If Cara wanted to be or play something that she didn't have a costume or toys for, she would just make it out of construction paper and tape. She made a doctor kit, hairdresser set, Spongebob mask, tiger costume.....The list is as long as her vast imagination.
A true Minnesota girl. She actually spends more time outside at home when there's snow than any other time of year. Snow has become her construction paper. 
The ease in which she slips from serious to goofy is something I greatly admire. As she nears adolescence, it doesn't seem to be diminishing. Thank heavens. She's a dork off the old blocks.
Cara has always not only remembered birthdays, she's also made it her mission to make amazing gifts for each of us for our special days. This was the calendar Cara made for Connor. Each month had a different one of Connor's favorite characters, which she taught herself to draw by watching YouTube videos.  
When Cara started Tae Kwon Do a few years ago, she surprised us by setting a personal goal to get her red belt in two years. While she's had passing interests in dance, gymnastics, volleyball, etc, this was the first activity she was whole-heartedly passionate about. Doesn't hurt that she's amazing at it, either. Though it did take a bit longer than two years (a fact that can be blamed on summers filled with travels), she's now one test away from that red belt.
She has finally blossomed from only feeling comfortable performing for her immediate family to performing in front of people. She was the lead in her class play in 3rd grade, performs with the local puppet wagon, and regularly signs up for any school performance. Even with all of these extra outlets, we still get requests to watch performances at home.   
I love that Cara will go with me to events like this. When other pre-teens would groan about "old people's music", my daughter would take Beastie Boys over Bieber any day. 
Cara has such a sweet and gentle spirit, it's no wonder strangers have approached us asking if Cara was a babysitter. She loves to direct activities and to be in charge, it's the obvious next chapter for her.  And it's a perfect outlet for our pre-teen "look at me" girl.
When people hear that Cara has turned twelve, the comment that usually follows is about impending teenage-hood.  But Cara has been an easy, though at times dramatic, child.  Even on the outskirts of Hormone Town, we still enjoy being around our daughter.

Happy birthday, Schmoo! We promise to never stop watching you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Protection. Winter. Same difference.

Connor was very excited about a recent purchase of kids' foam soap, which he likes to refer to as shaving cream. I explained that shaving cream is used by men for their face and women on their legs before they shaved.

After a moment of reflection, my son adds, "Yeah. Girls sometimes have spikeys on their legs. They do that for protection."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rocky Mountain. Hi.

While visiting family in Colorado, we decided to take the kids along on a road trip up into the mountains. We made sure to leave the screens at home so that they could actually enjoy the incredible view out their windows.

It was about midway through the trip when Connor asked, "Are we done with this adventure yet?"

Please. No one teach him air quotes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Them Kids Learned Good

Don't get me wrong. I love my children's school and the well-rounded education they are getting.  But I'm not yet ready for them to intellectually put me in my place.

This evening, I got schooled by both kids at once.

Connor: "I didn't take a shower yesternight."

Me: "Yesternight isn't a word."

Cara: "Yes it is. It's Shakespeare."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Meow Sigh

My daughter has been a huge fan of the "Warriors" series of books for a few years now. I would go so far as to say that these books were the turning point in my daughter's view on recreational reading. Prior to this cat-centered series, Cara would read and even enjoy books, but she had never really experienced that "can't put this book down" feeling until the Warriors came along.

For those of you that are unaware of this collection of Erin Hunter books, the Warriors tales are centered around different "clans" of cats and their various adventures in the wild. These cats have elaborate stories that follow these clans from birth to death (and sometimes beyond).  They have names like Thunderpaw and Shadowfang and Moonlightburps and they fight and forage and follow extensive codes of conduct, all of which Cara has committed to memory.

Oftentimes, Cara's passion for all things Warrior seeps into her daily life.  The rigidity that comes from having memorized the adventures contained in dozens of chapter books doesn't really allow her to enjoy these stories outside of when she's actually reading.  Connor has tried to "play Warriors" with Cara, but having not read a single book, he is not privy to the dos and don'ts of the cat world. He often chooses the "wrong" clan or behaves in a way that the cat he selected would not play.  Yellingmother often has to intervene and direct her kits to play something different.

Right now, Cara is in a holding pattern for new Warriors books. They just don't seem to write them fast enough for her. It was during this down time that Craig found a well-loved tissue sitting on the counter in the bathroom with a kind of code written on it.  Now, we're not sure if this was an attempt to take notes from a previous episode she read or even if this was a made up key that she was going to provide her brother so that they might play an unobstructed game of Warriors.  Whatever its purpose, this Kleenex is classic Cara. 

It reads:
     Meow - I'm cool with you
     Hiss - Get out of my territory
     Meowmeowmeow - I'm leaving
     Meow Long - Where are you / I'm here
     Meow cough - I'm hurt. Get over here

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two Kids. Same School.

As I've mentioned before, my two children have very different views of school.  So, it's fair to say that the mood in our house on the first day of school was a range of emotions.

You would have thought that Cara's first day back was Christmas. Ever since summer began, she had been waiting for this day. She's had her backpack ready for two weeks now. Her clothes for the first day week of school are all lined up and ready to go. She had trouble getting to sleep the night before and was up before her alarm, so eager was she for school to resume.

And this year, Connor will be going to the same school as his sister, which added a whole other level of excitement for Cara. She kept talking with Connor about how much fun the school is and describing all of the things that he might get to do while there.

Anyone who knows this blog or, better yet, knows my children, should know what's coming next.

The Donkey Factor.

With all of the energy and excitement my daughter was putting into talking up the school experience to her brother, he was using the same amount to dig his heels in about not wanting to go. He groused and grumbled about not wanting teachers to tell him what to do. When Cara would build the school up, he would try to hypothesize loopholes into her story. He even resorted to suggesting that he might just be "too sick to go to school" the night before. (Heaven help us when he learns to fake illness for longer than his normal attention span will allow.)

Tuesday morning came and both of the children were up and ready to go a lot quicker than I had expected.
We made it out the door in record time, which put us at the school early. A little too early. Their school does not really want kids to be dropped off earlier than 8:20 and here we were, 5 whole minutes before then.  We all sat in the car, waiting behind a few others for that magic time to arrive. This prolonged anticipation was too much for my son.

Connor announced that his throat hurt. Sometimes, this is code for "I'm gonna hurl". This time, I chalked it up to the cough he had from allergies. Until he spelled it out for us. "I feel like I have to throw up," he insisted. Craig suggested that the whole waiting game was allowing Connor's nerves to get the best of him. So, rebels that we are, we let the kids out of the car at 8:18 and watched them head off to school.

I waited most of the day, thinking that I might get a call from the school to come pick up my cookie-tossing son, but no such call came. And as I tend to do after a summer of thinking "I can't wait until they're back in school", I missed those two tremendously and counted down the time until I got to pick them up.

Pickup time came and my kids came towards my car. Cara had a huge smile plastered on her face and her donkey brother had a scowl. Great. As I prepare to hear how horrible this experience was just as he had predicted it would be, my son sternly asks, "Why do you have to be here so early? Why can't I stay for after school care, too?"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bubble Bath

Connor has recently discovered a love for bubble baths. Honestly, who can blame him? 

So, I take 1/4 c liquid hand soap, 1/4 c of his shampoo, mix them together, and add to the tub while it's filling. Voila! A tub FILLED with bubbles.
"That's why they call it Mister Bubble. Because it's bubbles the size of misters." 

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Yesterday, Connor had an hour long orientation at his new school. I was talking with him later that evening about this experience, when I started questioning him about his teachers.

"What did you think of Julieanne?" I asked.

"She was nice."

"And did you like your other teacher?"

"Yeah. She was kind of shy. I guess that's why she's named Heidi."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lego Nerdlets

Cara and Connor were playing with Legos in Connor's room. After a short time, they both came out of his room to proudly show us what they had made.

"It's the Tardis," Cara proudly declared.

I asked Connor, "What did you build?"

Since he's got a Master's in Little Brother, of course his answer was "A Tardis Destroyer."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teacher Trouble

Next month, Connor will finally be attending the same school as Cara.  While Cara has thought of school as one of her favorite places since she was about 3 (and still does at age 11 1/2), Connor would beg to differ.  Actually, he never begs to differ. He just differs.

As the summer ends and we approach the start of this new school year, I've been wondering how well things will go.  My worry is centered around whether Connor will have a hard time adjusting.

Before I attended the spring parent/teacher conference at Connor's old school, I asked my son what his teacher might say about him.  His thoughtful reply was, "My teacher thinks I'm challenging but actually, I'm the master."

I'm pretty sure my concerns should focus more on the well-being of his teacher.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Headless Loon

Cara and I were out for a walk in her grandparents' neighborhood and we passed by this mailbox. We've seen this thing several times before, but on this particular trip, I decided to verbally point it out by saying "Headless Loon".  

I should mention that Cara was in the midst of talking about her father's current preoccupation with classic cars when I blurted those two words out.  She stopped talking and looked at me quizzically. Assuming that she just didn't hear me, I repeated myself.

"Headless Loon."  An equally perplexed look from my daughter followed.  Again, I persisted, "Headless Loon."

"Okaaaaay," she finally responded and continued her discussion about the antique automobiles.

"Do you even know what I was talking about?" I asked.

"Not really.  When you say things like that, I just assume that it's old people slang that I just don't understand. I thought Headless Loon was code for convertible or something."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Butt Wipe

My son was not potty-trained until he was 4 years old.  I must confess, I blamed myself for his delay. Arguing with a child about excrement and cleaning up accidents during the learning curve did not sound as easy as changing a diaper.  And I do like easy. But we honestly tried to get him out of diapers and into underwear earlier than he did.  Connor just wasn't going to budge until he was ready. Once we made peace with that fact and stopped forcing, things went fairly smooth. When he was ready, the transition to using the toilet was remarkably quick.

The transition to using the toilet all by himself, however, has taken a bit longer.

This is a boy who gags at the smell of his own pee.  Because of his smell-sensitivity, he became an expert on one-handed toileting.  One hand was used for the unsnapping/unzipping/flushing/etc and the other hand? Firmly holding his nose shut. And when you only have one hand available to you, you often require additional assistance.

Enter Mom, aka, the Butt-Wiper.

I've had this task since the day of his birth. I've become an expert. But just because someone is good at something, doesn't mean they want it as a lifelong career.

Connor and I have had quite a few dialogues about him taking this job over for me. I've discussed the benefits and he's fairly happy with keeping the status quo. When I have dug in and refused, I've gotten very creative responses designed to sway my stance.

He's tried: "When you wipe my butt, it makes me better at it." (Sounds like Craig telling his mom that the sandwiches taste better when she makes them.)

Another time, he started listing off all the times he wiped his own butt. In his whole life. "Once at school, two times at my friend's house, a couple times at home."

Then there was the comedic approach. He sing-songed, "Will you please wipe my buuuuuuut........of the tiger." (That Survivor song will never again be associated with "Rocky" in my home)

He's also tried guilting me into it. "I'm just going to sit here forever," he explained. "Then there's going to be a skeleton on the toilet!"

Connor has finally gotten to the stage where my assistance is rarely needed, though he would prefer that I be reinstated at my previous level of employment. And every now and again I can hear his plugged-nose voice calling "Mooooooom! Could you please wipe my buuuuut?"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thrift Store Finds

Here are a couple of my favorite things from a visit to the thrift store a few months ago: 

First, this mask.  I believe it was intended as wall art, but how could you not try that thing on? 
The lesser-known Inca God, Flame Boy!
Then there was this thing, found among the cookie jars.  I can't imagine what it could possibly be used for, except to scare small children.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Getting Squirrely

The kids have been getting a kick out of following their grandparents' plight to keep the squirrels out of their garden. Originally, the kids would be alerted by their grandparents to the squirrels' presence. The kids would subsequently run out of the house, arms waving, and yell kidscenities (obscenities for kids) like "Get outta hear, you dang squirrels," until the offender ran away.

Since the yelling and chasing does little more than delay these rodents' inevitable presence in the garden, their grandparents have resorted to using a live trap for the animals. Once a squirrel is trapped, it gets taken on a 15 minute car ride out to the foothills and is relocated and converted from a garden squirrel to a prairie squirrel. Pretty sure there's a bit of a food-gathering learning curve, but these guys are nothing if not resourceful.
He may have gone in the cage a scavenger, but he'll leave the cage a hunter.
It takes a staff of many to relocate a squirrel.
During these squirrel antics, Cara had suggested that we try to shoot the squirrel. "If you shoot a squirrel, are you going to skin it?" I asked, knowing full well that she is not made of the stuff that is required to kill an animal. She quickly replied, "No. I'm going to deep fry it. Duh." 

My Minnesotan daughter, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Restaurant Capers

While playing restaurant, Cara was the waitress/cook and Connor was the customer. After pretending to have eaten his plastic food, Connor picks up a toy gun and said, "I'm a robber. I eat for free."
And then Cara took the law into her own hands. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crazy Hair Day 2013

After Crazy Hair Day last year, we got a wonderful suggestion from my mother for what Cara could do the following year. Yes, we were planning one year in advance for an event that no one really participates in at her school any longer. So?

Well, about a month after last year's Crazy Hair Day, my daughter went and did something that, while completely selfless and generous and incredible, totally put a crimp in that plan. She donated over 10 inches of her hair to Locks of Love.

So, it's getting close to the end of the school year (Crazy Hair Day is on the last day of school) and we toss around a few other ideas. But my mother's idea had been stuck in our brain for so long, we thought we'd try and make a go of it with the length Cara's hair was now.

My daughter is about as much of a morning person as I am (especially now that she's in the pre-teen years), so we wanted to do something where some of the work could be completed the night before.  Even with her ends having been dyed purple the week before (just for fun, and only temporary), I think it still turned out pretty well. 

Thanks for the idea, Mom!
Night-before prep
Rainbow side
Rainbow and cloud

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mario Birthday 6.0

My son has had a fascination with all things Mario for years. So, when I asked him what kind of birthday party he wanted, his answer was no surprise.

Now, you'd think that, since we did a Mario birthday party last year, having the same theme again would be a piece of cake. Um, hello. I'd like to introduce myself to you. I'm the one that likes to make things complicated.

First step, the invitations. Since I don't have a color printer (and I REALLY like to cut), I set out to make Mario faces out of card stock. A quick template made from a Google images search, a download of a free Mario font, and I had these guys made up in no time.
Once the invitations were sent, we got to work on the party itself. Connor had some specific ideas about things that he wanted at this party which made the planning go that much easier.

If someone would have asked me, "What's a party without a pinata?", I would have breezed past the fact that it was probably a rhetorical question and answered "A safe party!" But then I saw those pinatas that you pull on strings to open instead of swinging a bat and my brain stopped thinking of checking our homeowner's policy and instead started trying to come up with a creative pinata-esque solution.

We ended up taking a wine box (thanks, Costco) with dividers, large pieces of yellow cardstock, tissue paper, and a computer printout of the Mario question marks.

Since Connor was the genius that came up with the idea of covering peanut butter cups as well as Oreos with gold foil to make gold coins, he was nominated to help bring his vision to life. We picked up the gold foils in squares from our local cake & candy supply shop.
? Block Pinata
He tried to break a cookie so he could eat the "accident".
Our pile of gold coins
All filled up and ready to punch!

The next thing I went to work on was the fire/ice ball toss game. I cut out some Goombas, Koopas, and a Piranha Plant with card stock (much like with the invitations) and glued them to some old water bottles that I had filled partially with dried rice. For the fire and ice balls, just come craft felt and more dried rice after consulting my friend, Google images, for a fireball pattern.
Bad guys ready to be taken down.
I am lucky enough to have other creative people in my life. If I didn't, the pin-the-M-on-the-Mario game would not have been possible. My talented friend, Phaedra, drew freehand on a large piece of poster board and copied the Mario head from our invitation. After a few letter M's cut out, this portion of prep work was done.

And a party wouldn't be complete without a pinata party favors. We picked up some foam visors and crowns at the craft store, some white craft foam, and some adhesive jewels and made Mario and Luigi hats and Princess Peach crowns.  One of the things I did reuse from last year was the sticks from the chocolate mustaches. This time, I just used foam sticker mustaches and put them on the sticks. The wands were foam flower and heart stickers and some extra ribbon I had on hand. (Yes, I know Princess Peach doesn't have a wand, but not one of the girls complained about accuracy, so there.)

The favors on display.
Connor fills the treat bags.
Now, it was time to decorate. Cara requested to be a part of making the Boo balloons, so I let her take on this task herself. She found three Boo faces to copy and drew them freehand with permanent marker on the white balloons that I bought at Target. Once those were completed, we just used thread and tape and taped them to the ceiling of the living room.
Hiding Boo
Scary Boo
Banner reused from last year.
Games were set up. Decorations were in place. Treat bags were filled. And the cake was made. All that was left was party time.
It's Mario Party O'clock!
We started out with the games. While it seemed that all of the kids enjoyed the activities, I would probably look toward having more games where all of the kids got to participate at once. Everyone did very well taking turns, but not all 6 year olds are big fans of waiting.
Each kid had an M to try and get on Mario's hat.
Fire & ice ball toss.
Punch the ? block pinata.
I should add that this version of the pinata worked wonderfully! Since the object was to punch a hole in a section of the box, the targeted hitting was much safer than the indiscriminate swinging of a stick while blindfolded. Plus, each child had their own section to punch and, therefore, their own amount of candy. No one had to elbow anyone else to try and get to their candy. If I were to do a pinata again, I would definitely look for another one I could work similarly.

We did end up heading to the nearby park to burn some additional time (and energy) and we still had time for cake and ice cream, presents, and treat bags.
Star Power cake.
Another successful Mario birthday party!
Thanks to my helpers and a huge thanks to the parents of these amazing kids. It's because of them that Connor has some really great friends!