Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

When I was a kid, my favorite part of Valentine's Day was not candy, getting tons of mail, or finding out that someone I liked liked me back (though of course I loved all those things), but making my Valentines. I spent weeks before the big day dreaming up different designs and then troubleshooting construction problems (my Valentines always had some complicated paper engineering thing going on, with windows or doors that locked with a lollipop stick, folded paper springs that made hearts pop out when someone opened the card, or other pop-up features). And then there was the making phase, parked at the kitchen table with my mom and sisters and piles of construction paper, doilies, and gobs of old-fashioned paste.  I have conveniently forgotten the temper tantrums that traditionally accompanied my over-reaching projects.

The happy memories are no doubt the reason I often spent every February 13th when my kids were young once more parked at the kitchen table with mounds of craft supplies trying to coax my craft-indifferent sons to make their own Valentines too (and then staying up late finishing them up when the boys abandoned the project midcourse and I couldn't bear to think about some poor classmate being left out).

Fortunately for me, my daughter was a different story. She liked to make things too. And still does to my everlasting delight.

The little matchbox Valentines she made in first grade remain one of my all time favorite Valentine projects. (The little love bugs inside were NOT my favorite - too fiddly for little hands.) These Valentines were also a favorite of my middle son's, because not only did he do something similar, albeit simpler:
I let him keep the giant ziplock bag full of the matches we dumped out of the sixty-some little matchboxes! Which was a LOT of matches.

He spent the next zillion summers constructing elaborate if rather wobbly structures from the matches and glue and then setting them alight (under adult supervision, in the driveway, on low wind days with a bucket of water handy, but still). I am a terrible mother obviously.

These are very simple Valentines to make, possible to do at the last minute if you have a spare box of matches handy. Simply cut a paper strip long enough to wrap around the box, draw a design on the front (my daughter designed four different buildings - the flower shop and house shown at the top of this post, and I think a school and a library, but I guess I didn't save samples of them), and then glue it in place. For mass production purposes, I pasted up the four designs on a single piece of paper and photocopied them, and then my daughter cut out the strips and glued them around the boxes -- but one of kind designs work too.

I recommend putting some heart stickers, a sweet note or a little candy inside (as my son did) rather than spending a bazillion hours gluing miniature googly eyes and punched heart "wings" onto glass gems. Fewer frustration tantrums for everyone that way.

I'll close with a photo of my pug, Koko, who is celebrating her 11th birthday today. In style.