I didn't adopt the Love name as my own until a few years after the nuptials (despite Mr. New Media's half-hearted nagging) that paved the way for it. Bear and The Boy, however, were born into it, and a reverence for this holiday will be expected of them by all those well-meaning teachers and coworkers and credit-card-glancing cashiers who feel compelled to comment on the aptness of our name on this day, as if it were some concerted effort on our part to observe what's really just an excuse to consume more chocolate. Whatever the burdens we bear with it, the name seems a good enough excuse to instill in the kids the general feeling of gratification that arises from making, even toiling, over something for the better part of two weeks, to hand out to friends and classmates, and most likely forgotten about ten minutes later.
For The Boy's Valentines this year, we decided on heart-shaped crayons to go with little stitched notebooks. Four-and-a-half is a pretty awesome age, provided you have the energy to ply the pre-schooler with a steady stream of tasks and assistance. "I really want a project, Momma," is an actual whine-staple heard around here, a pretty cool thing, really. And on days I'm up to it, we set about smelting down crayons in novelty silicone molds, or drawing out the design for our stamp (the actual carving I reserve for a nice little activity for myself), or inking and stamping the notebooks to serve as the Valentine card itself, or affixing the crayons to the notebooks with a gooey glue dot and tying a neat length of yarn around each complete Valentine for good measure.
And it's a pretty sweet thing when, all throughout the process, your Boy's mantra is "I think my friends will really like this."
Bear, of course, doesn't have the same concept of making for others. And, admittedly, her involvement in the manufacturing of the wool felt heart stuffies was minimal. But I wanted to make something that I thought someone in the under-two set might enjoy. And to personalize it and get Bear's hand in the project, we inked up her literal hand (actually, just a finger), and stamped some vaguely heart-shaped fingerprints onto little tags to sew to each heart.
Now, I don't have photographic documentation of the stamping part. Because the last thing you want to do, when you have a toddler immersed in paint meant to permanently mark up fabric, is to turn your back for one misguided (read: stupid) nanosecond to grab that expensive camera you don't even let the kids touch under the most sanitary of conditions.
But let's just imagine that you're the clerk working at the precinct station, and it's your job to print and book the latest perp dragged in by the loose cannon detective and his surly partner (that's how it works in real police departments, right?). That is how firmly you must hold on to your toddler's ink-laden finger while she grins her crazy little teeth off and flails her free arm in a whole-bodied attempt at one-handed entropy.
When it's over, Bear, for all her toddler addled-ness, does understand when I tell her to go wash her hands, and happily totters off to the bathroom where she plays in the sink for a spell, and then wanders back and climbs up to the craft table where she admires her handiwork and swipes one for herself.
And that's a pretty sweet thing, too.