Rotating Toys (or How Not To Be Crushed Under An Avalanche Of Toys)

We are moving (yes, again), so we’ve been using this opportunity to prioritize and purge. One of the areas that’s always been really difficult for me is toys.

I’m sure, if you’re a parent, you’ve been in this situation: your kid has a TON of toys already, most of them littering every square inch of your home, but your child acts as if he has nothing to play with. And getting rid of toys is close to impossible because you know your child has played with each and every thing in the pile (once or twice), and will again (once or twice).

Some of my friends have been really successful at rotating toys, but I just couldn’t figure out how to implement that in our home. But, thanks to Pinterest, I learned that the key is stripping it down to the bare minimum.
I found this great guide at Little Stories. She shows you how to categorize what you have and divide toys into sets that will maximize learning potential.

I really wanted to wait until after the move to start this, but seriously, we were tripping on toys constantly, and I was about to lose it. Teaching clean-up skills is likely my least favorite part of parenting so far. After starting this system, it’s SO much more manageable.

I gathered all the toys and was shocked to realize how many we really had. This is for one child, people, and this doesn’t include larger toys and outside toys, such as his kitcken, basketball goal, and sand and water table, and things like craft supplies. I don’t know if you can tell, but it’s not just one layer deep… the pile covers our entire king-size bed.

I made some tough calls, trying to be honest with myself about what he doesn’t use or need. Then I added back just a few types of toys.

(I feeled compelled to note that I did not lay out the numbers like that, Dexter did. My OCD tendencies would not have allowed me to let them be out of order!)

The benefits so far:

  • There are less toys in the floor.
  • Clean up is a breeze because he’s not overwhelmed.
  • He actually plays with what he has.
  • He plays with things he never tried before and gets creative with what’s available.
  • I’m able to monitor what he’s still not playing with so I can remove it from our home.
  • Our time is spent more productively than before, when he wasted time whining and being bored, and I wasted time trying to force him to clean.

We are in our second round of rotation so far, and it’s still working well. When he asks for a different type of toy, I have him gather up something he’s willing to trade before I give him the new items. Otherwise, I plan to rotate the entire set about every 2 weeks.

I’m really excited to be able to really sort and store my sets when we move. Right now, all the extra toys are still in my bedroom because there was no better place to put them during the move.

If you have other tips and tricks, definitely leave me a comment!

Archie

My adoring fans have reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. And she is they are right.

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been participating in the Sewing Buddy Challenge at Whipstitch.

Our first challenge wrapped up this month, and my partner and I won 2nd place! We were to collaborate to make a pair of boy/girl projects, which works out perfectly since I have Dexter and Elisabeth has her baby daughter, Cate. We made these precious little dolls from Wee Wonderfuls called Olive and Archie.

This pattern was absolutely worth the money. I only had one problem with it, which I will go into later. But, for your $15, you get the patterns for both Olive and Archie, plus all sorts of clothes, and accessories including backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cat pal.

Elisabeth and I chose a color palette, using Moda’s A Walk in the Woods line as our inspiration. I would have loved to just get some of that fabric, because it is PRECIOUS, but I’m trying to stash-bust. So I had to bring that vibe to my doll while keeping down extra purchases.

I created a few sketches, with three major goals in mind:

1. Use what I have as much as I can.

2. Stick to the color palatte/theme we chose.

3. Make the little guy look as much like Dexter as possible.

I easily found a felt in color similar to Dexter’s hair. I ended up getting a blend because I was trying to keep costs down. I can tell that it’s pilled a bit, but overall I think it’s fine.

But finding a skin tone nearly drove me crazy. I shopped at Joann Fabrics, which I normally really like. But they had a whopping total of two fabrics that could possibly work for skintone. One of them was too orange (we are an extremely pale family) and the other was thinner and weirder looking than I’d like. I made the smart choice and went with thin and weird.

I started stitching my hair on. So far so good. Except in this photo, you can see straight through to the paper under the fabric. But surely that won’t be a problem, right? Right??

I’m 99% certain I washed my fabric before cutting. But I really can’t remember now. After sewing all my hair on and starting to assemble the body, I ironed some seams, and suddenly the weirdness of the fabric became an actual problem.

The fabric melted/shrunk. The photo above shows the difference between the pattern piece and how much shrinkage occurred. In retrospect, desperation to find the right color may have caused me to get something partially synthetic. But I will never know, because when I went back to Joann for a replacement, I couldn’t find the mystery fabric.

So I came some with the too-orange fabric, washed it… and then realized under our lights that it was yellow.

Long story short, I went to Hobby Lobby and found an acceptable fabric. The twist: A few days after I submitted my doll, I found my own stash of fleshtone fabric. Sigh.

Aside from that, the pattern started out ridiculously easy. But there comes a point when the creator tells you that you will be cursing her name, and she was not wrong. I didn’t curse *her* per se, but I nearly lost it several times. The problem is that wretched bottom panel. If you’ve made this pattern before, I’m sure you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t and plan to, you *will* know what i’m talking about! I Googled and searched and pleaded to the internet fairies to give me the answer and I never found it.

In the end I just had to wing it. So Archie has a funky butt.

I thought it might bother me that my handstitching is so awful, but I’m just glad that part is over. And as with childbirth, I’ve almost forgotten the pain and would do totally do it all over again.

The eyes where my only other creative difficulty, because I wanted Archie to look like Dexter, but Dex has hazel eyes that are difficult to replicate.

I almost settled for these plain dark eyes, which I love, but I just really wanted light eyes, even if they were still wrong. So I chose to do a circle of charcoal gray with pale blue on top to create irises.

I stuck on all the features, subbing felt scraps for the mouth and nose, to get the correct placement and shapes. Then I just stitched on the face.

I made a little red jacket last minute using the hoodie pattern included in the set. I didn’t finish the seams, because I was running out of time. But I really wanted that pop of color to complete the look I was going for. It was then that I realized that I didn’t like the placement of the arms, beause with the jacket on, things look a little weird and the jacket actually doesn’t want to stay on.

But, I was extremely happy with how he turned out!

More importantly, Dexter is extremely happy with him. I wish I could have captured how thrilled he was initially. I gave him the choice of whether he wanted to change the name and he really liked “Archie”. Or “Artsy”, as he calls him.
And he sleeps with Archie every single day.
Even if I didn’t win anything in the challenge, this would have been enough!
But I won’t say no to the 1/2 yard bundle of fabric 2nd place gets :-P.

Cousin Craze

I started this post about a week and a half ago at my sister’s house. I never finished it because hours later, Deborah and I were making a midnight trip to the ER to check on some early contractions. Needless to say, the week did not go as we had planned and we spent most of our time after that trying to recover. Deborah more so than me, obviously…

This week I’m staying with my sister Deborah (below), who is very pregnant, and her twins, Ty and Micah, who are equal parts sweet and lively. We’re going to be doing a few baby projects* while I’m here, but in the meantime, we’ve just been wrangling hooligans and trying to keep the avalanche of toys from killing us all.

*The projects were not completed, boo, and as I was leaving we discovered a glitch in one of the pieces. Hopefully Deborah will feel well enough to complete them soon and post some pix!

On the first day, I got to snuggle sweet baby Isaac, my brothers son. He is the most precious baby in all the land, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child as consistently happy as he is. I rarely get to see him, so I was really excited that our visits overlapped.
Dex was EXTREMELY excited to be with our family!
The colors in the picture below are off, but it was the only time I could get Dexter to look at me for a picture. I’m not really sure he likes to be photographed. He only enjoyed the snapshot above because Uncle Ian was the photographer and allowed him to get within lens-biting distance.
It’s so lovely when the cousins take a break from harassing each other (or Ty and Micah get a break from being harassed by Dexter). Ty and Dex spent a fair amount of time Magna Doodling together…
…while sweet Micah played with animals by himself.
This child has the sweetest, most squishable-kissable cheeks!
Dexter is working with Magna Doodle intensity.
The boys fought over played with a lot of cars.
Below we have Hoarding Action Ty*.
*Hoarding Action Micah and Hoarding Action Dexter sold separately.
Dexter feigns patience while Ty plays. Yeah, save your thumb-sucking and sparkly eyes, buddy, I’m not buying it.
Things got a little crazy when the balloon fight started. But at least they were all laughing at the same time…

I love cousins.

Felt Piglet Tutorial

We’re having a Winnie the Pooh craze around here. Craze may be putting it a little strongly, but Dexter is frequently Pooh, pretending to suck honey off his hand and telling me he’s spitting out bees. He asked the other day if I’d make him a piglet… so I paused for a half-second and said, “Sure!”

If you’d like to use the exact pattern* I traced out, here it is:

 
I’ll show below how to assemble him and how I drafted my pattern.
*1. Where the body meets the legs, use the top pink line. The lower one was a mistake I didn’t remove. *2. My pattern is not symmetrical. It just didn’t occur to me until it was too late. This will be most obvious on the ears, the inner parts need to match the correct ear, unless you care to correct that on your pattern.

You can do this with any character really. Piglet is pretty simple in that he’s almost entirely made up of 2 colors. I found a picture online, blew it up to the size I wanted, printed it… and realized it wasn’t quite as big as I’d expected. So I roughly traced around it to enlarge it.

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You can see that I did a lot of correcting throughout the whole process. I was flying by the seat of my pants and really didn’t spend anytime in the planning phase! But all of these corrections should be reflected in the PDF pattern.

I folded over my felt and traced the pattern onto the side of the fabric that would be on the inside. Then I cut out both layers together.

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Next, I went scrounging for fabric for clothing. I didn’t want to have to hem anything, so I used only felt and t-shirt scraps. I didn’t have any dark pink, and I felt like he just HAD to have stripes. I figured purple would work too. It’s a warmer purple than it looks in all these pictures.

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So, lay Piglet down where you’d like the stripes to fall. Again, fold your fabric, with the wrong sides facing out.

I used a Sharpie to mark the points at his neck and crotch, and then traced the sides of his tummy.

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You’ll get a an outline that looks like the picture on the left (if you do it without the pattern I linked). Then just connect all the lines, making a dip at the top for his chin.

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Then I turned all the pieces right-side-up and started building Piglet.

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Cut out all the facial features. He’s starting to look pretty cute! Also, he looks a little broader than normal, but when he’s stuffed, it turns out just right.

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Sew on all the dark pieces.

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Next, layer the snout.

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Then add the little nose triangle.

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Then sew the clothes to the front and the back. Remember, you have not put him together yet, your back piece should still be separate from the front.

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Flip the sides and trim off any excess t-shirt fabric. You’ll want to check the front side after you do this and make sure you trim the parts you can’t see from the back.

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Now you create your Piglet sandwich (hmm…) and sew around the outside, starting below one ear, and ending at the bottom of the next ear.

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Piglet’s head should be floppy and open like this:

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Stuff the arms and legs first, leaving it slightly soft where they connect to the body, so that he won’t be completely stiff. Then talk some little kid into stuffing the rest for you. Actually, he got tired of this pretty quickly and I had to finish. He just wanted to shred the stuffing.

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Then I stitched across the arm joint to give them a little range of motion. I didn’t bother doing this with the legs, but you’re welcome to try if it pleases you.

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Round the Polyfil at the top, keeping it clear of where seams will be. I didn’t put any stuffing in the ears.

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Sew around the curve of the head, still ignoring the ears.

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Pin the pink parts onto the ears. Keep in mind that if you used my pattern, the ear parts are not interchangeable.

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Sew around the edge of the dark pink, both attaching it to the ear and closing the ear openings.

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Then trim off the threads and he’s good to go!!

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The first thing Dex did was cram him down into a jar. Poor Pickled Piglet.

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And he felt like he needed to compare the pattern to see if they matched up.

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He now sleeps with Piglet every night, which is awesome. I should add that felt starts to look a little ratty when it’s handled by sticky hands everyday. Just a heads up.

There are lots of steps, but this was a pretty quick project. All told, it took me about 2 hours to complete, including drafting the pattern and taking pictures.

I’d love to see if anyone comes up with any other characters! I hope to make a Winnie the Pooh sometime! But then I’d probably lose it and end up making the whole Winnie the Pooh family. Felt is dangerous!

Felt Food Tutorial and Patterns

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Here is the moment we’ve all been waiting for… (there’s totally a drumroll)…

I learned to create patterns in pdf form!!!!

I’ve been saying I’d do this for the longest time. It really wasn’t as hard as I was worried it would be. One day I’ll post about that for the other chickens out there Smile .

Patterns:

You’ll notice that most of the patterns call for cutting 2 pieces of felt, even for something flat. This is for stability, because you can warp or even tear felt pretty easily.

I tried to keep everything simple. All the stitching is on the outside, there’s no flipping or turning things inside out. And I did everything by machine.

Assembly Tutorial:

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Cheese: Probably the easiest thing you’ll make in the felt food world. Cut 2 rectangles of felt, and sew them together. Tada! You’ve made cheese. You have some creative options here: you can change colors for different types of cheese slices (think off white with stitched sprinkles for Monterey Jack), oval for provolone, and if you want Swiss, my suggestion is to sew circles, and then trim the holes.

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Bacon and Eggs: Felt food must-haves! Cut 2 egg whites and 1 yolk for each egg. Sew the yolk onto one of the whites, leaving a small opening. Very lightly stuff the yolk with polyfil and close the opening. Then put your 2 egg whites together, with the yolk on the outside, and sew all the way around.

For the bacon slices, I only cut 1 layer, because I felt like those lighter strips would be secure enough. Cut your darker bacon slices and 2 lighter strips for each slice. Just freehand those stripes, there is no reason to try to conform them to a pattern, and I think it would be more difficult to do so. Lay the light strips on top of the darker fabric and stitch around the strips.

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PB&J Sammy: I wanted everything to be as simple as possible, so these bread slices are flat, flat, flat! For each slice, cut 1 dark piece (that will become the crust) and 2 lighter pieces. This was actually the most difficult thing I did, despite trying to keep simplicity in mind. Sandwich those 3 pieces (light, then dark, then light) and pin the layers. You want to stitch around the edges of the light felt, catching all 3 layers. One of my slices came out perfectly the first time. The other slice slipped and I had to redo it a couple of times.

For the peanut butter and jelly, cut 2 pieces each and sew together. Super easy.

If you want to go a little further, you could make sandwich meats out of circles and ovals. I also want to make lettuce and tomato slices one day, but I just didn’t bother this time. Dexter already has a wooden sandwich set anyway. 

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Broccoli: I had a lot of fun making the little veggies! I was inspired by Dana at MADE for the broccoli and chicken legs for sure. In fact, I was probably most inspired by her felt food, because I saw how simple it could be instead of trying to create incredibly detailed 3D models of food.

Back to the broccoli. For each piece, cut 2 stalks, and sew those together. Cut 2 florets, my recommendation is to cut ovals just slightly bigger than you want your floret to be. This is another time where freehanding is going to be easier on you.

Ok, I said oval, but what I did was more like a little mushroom cap. You take your 2 little mushroom cap shapes, and freehand a broccoli shape around the top, leaving the bottom open.

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Next, take a little bit of polyfil and stuff the top. Then poke your little stalk into the opening, and stitch it closed. Like this:

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(Bet you can’t tell that I’m sketching these out as I go…)

Then trim your broccoli tops, and you’re done!

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Beans/Peas: Cut your 2 pieces. Sew along the curved back, leaving the inner curve open. Ball up polyfil into 3 little pea-sized… well… peas. Or beans. Put them in a row inside your shell. Sew up the inner circle.

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Carrots: These go together like the broccoli pieces. Sew your little carrot tops together, then sew the carrots, leaving the top open. Stuff with polyfil, then put the stem inside the opening and stitch shut. Then, I ran these guys under my sewing machine to create the lines. It wasn’t super easy, I had to help them along. Don’t “help” them so much that you break a needle. But some light pressure should be ok.

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Chicken Legs: I’m in love with these little chicken legs. Sew the 2 meat parts together, leaving the bottom open. Sew the 2 bone pieces together, leaving the top open. Stuff both sections with polyfil. I stuffed these a little more firmly, leaving it a little softer at both of the openings. Insert the bone into the meat opening (Ok, I just realized how creepy meat assembly sounds!), and stitch across all layers. 

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Cookies: You can make different kinds of cookies. Whatever you make, sew the add-ons to the top before you sew and stuff the actual cookie (or if you plan to hand stitch, you can do the add-ons at any time). Then sew most of the way around the 2 cookie layers, stuff lightly (you don’t want these to be too puffy), and then sew across the opening.

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Pancakes: These were the first items I made, and I couldn’t find them when I did my photo shoot, AND I only took one phone picture of them before I gave them away. I did not think ahead to when I’d be doing a fancy-schmancy tutorial.

At the time, I did these a little differently than I would now. You can probably see the batting peeking through. That was before I realized that stuffing with polyfil works just as well and actually looks better.

For the pancakes, cut 2 pieces, sew most of the way around, stuff lightly with polyfil, and close ‘em up.

For the syrup, cut 2 pieces, sew together.

For the butter, cut 2 pieces, sew 3 sides, lightly stuff, sew the 4th side. (I feel silly for typing out all these directions, since most of them are “cut 2, sew together”, but I wanted this to be as easy as possible for anyone making them!)

Now, when I made these, I thought I had just created the most amazing thing ever. And then I found these on Etsy. I guess there are only so many ways to make felt pancakes!

Oh, I also indicated on the pancake pattern that this is also what I’d use to make a hamburger. And yet, I have not created a hamburger bun pattern. I will do that soon though, because my sister has requested a hamburger for her boys. I’ll probably tackle the lettuce and tomato slices at the same time.

Links:

Now, I promised links to all the felt food that inspired me, but it was extremely hard to go back and find those!! I will add what I found, and maybe this was all. I know for some of the items I just did my own thing, making them look the way I thought they should look. But I truly don’t want to take credit for something someone else did, so I am sorry if I missed a link!!!

Dana at Made (The cutest little almost-2D picnic set! And I just noticed she has bread slices in there too, so maybe that’s where I got that inspiration as well as the broccoli and drumsticks)

Pickle Things at Black Wagon (This is likely an inspiration for the cookies.)

Stitches by Krustal (I didn’t get my cheese from here- I don’t think that sad little cheese slices are particularly inspired, as they are just squares- but I plan to use this as a jumping off point for my future hamburger bun, because the style is very similar to my felt food philosophy. And if you don’t want to wait for my version, which will probably only be slightly different, this would be a good place to go for a simple bun.)

Now, go have fun felt-fooding it up!!

Felt Food Frenzy

This year my Dexter’s Christmas gift was a beautiful play kitchen. So I went crazy making accessories for myself him.  
 
It was so much fun coming up with ideas for mildly 3-dimensional foods. I also found a lot of great inspiration online. I didn’t want to have to put a lot of thought into it or sculpt something magnificent. I just wanted to throw together a lot of fun little pieces to spark some imaginative play.  
 

 
 

The hardest things to create were the teeny tiny oven mitts, but I hand-sewed binding for the first time, and I’m excited to take that to the next level on a quilt soon!  

Eventually I will compile some links and upload patterns/templates/tutorials (don’t hold your breath, I’m not super great at adding actual patterns…), but for now, I want to showcase my work!  

 

 

 
 
 
 

Dexter Turns 2!!!

We celebrated Dexter’s 2nd birthday last weekend, and it was such a nice day! We let the kids play at a park, everyone got a sugar buzz… What more could a kid want??

My theme was bugs, but I didn’t want to go with a bug cake. I saw a terribly cute idea in the last issue of Parents Magazine. They stacked wood rounds to make a cupcake stand, and then decorated their cupcakes as mushrooms. My sweet brother-in-law attempted to HAND SAW some rounds for me. But the wood and his hands wouldn’t quite cooperate, so he supplied me with a still-cool stump and a few rounds.

My INCREDIBLE husband took over (after I semi-destroyed both a batch of cupcakes and a batch of frosting) and made these precious little mushrooms! I did my part by playing Dance Central and cheering him on 🙂

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After we got everything set up, the table looked awesome! I wish we’d gotten a picture of the balloons. I picked red, orange, green, and cream, and they went perfectly with our theme.

We let the kids have cupcakes immediately. We didn’t really have a choice, as soon as we sat down about 30 grubby little hands started clawing at the table 🙂

Dexter was thrilled to sing happy birthday to himself, and I was surprised when he blew out the candle by himself without even being told to!

Then he proceeded to slather himself in icing. It was exceptionally cute 🙂

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Here are Ty and Micah getting down on some cupcakes. I think one of Deborah’s boys managed to snag 3 cupcakes by the time the party was over!

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Could this child be any cuter??

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Another big birthday thrill for Dex was getting to drink out of a real juice bottle. And to actually get to drink juice! He rarely gets it unless he’s sick!

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He was given a lot of sweet gifts, and he has loved playing with them for the whole week. It’s been a lot of fun watching him explore and interact with the new toys. After I put him to bed the other night, I was turning out all the lights and found that he’d nestled his tiny dump truck into his big dump truck. I really wanted to wake him up and squish him for that. But I didn’t. 

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I love you teeny-tiny-big-boy!!! Happy Birthday!!!