“One, two, three, GO!”
I repeated that cry over and over again that February of 1991.
My kids at the time, ages 5, 6 and almost 9, were spending the day making homemade Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in their extended family, and our kitchen table was strewn with their supplies and creations.
We wanted something “handmade” from the fourth child, too, except he was only 5 months old.
So the baby's two older brothers cut out paper hearts and glued them to white paper doilies, and my daughter and I were working together for the baby to “sign” all of them.
This meant tucking him under my right arms and holding his hands opens while my daughter swabbed them with black watercolor.
Then she held the right hand open and I held the left hand open. At GO we both brought his hands down on the paper heart before the little guy curled them back into tiny fists.
We were successful on the first try less than half the time. So naturally the baby was cranky before we finished a couple dozen valentines.
Today those tiny hands now wield chef knives. Who’d have thunk?
At our house, and as Christians, we saw Valentine’s Day as a “crafty” way to express our love for each other.
For many years in early February, the kids would cover old shoeboxes with construction paper and then decorate the paper so their siblings could slide homemade valentines and other goodies inside them.
As the kids outgrew making cute mailboxes, we graduated to decorating paper lunch bags and filling them with different treats.
Now that everyone is grown, works many hours and, in some cases, have families of their own, the concept of “whole family” Valentine's Day celebrations has faded into new ways of celebrating.
Except that my youngest daughter Rebekah, now in her mid-20s, has continued the tradition of decorating paper bags and filling them with various treats and surprises. Mine is always waiting for me at my computer when I get home from work.
While some people scoff at the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, I like the concept of setting aside one day a year to focus on love and appreciation. And if you have kids, bring them into the celebration, too.
Here area some of the ways my kids made valentines and Valentine's Day treats through the years. All of these suggestions cost little to no money to make and, most likely, utilize, items you already have in the house.
If you have a printer, print our free (the page will say the images are "free" and "printable") Valentine’s Day coloring pages for the ids to decorate. Glue that to construction page and add message and signature.
Or print out coloring pages based on the recipient's interests.
Or have kids draw and color their own designs on scrap paper. Cut them out, glue to colored paper, and add message and signature.
Take white paper and the stubs of old crayons. Completely cover the entire sheet with one color, pressing hard as you color. Then take another color and color completely over the top color.
The idea is to create a thick layer of wax. End with black. Then use a pointed object (compass, pen cap, fork tine) to scratch a message through the crayon wax. The different colors will appear in the scratched letters. An adult should do the "scratching" for young children.
Draw around your child's hands on a piece of paper and turn the hands into a picture they can color.
Cut our hearts and glue to paper or foil doilies for instant, elegant valentines.
If you have leftover craft items, here's the time to bring them out. Stickers, glitter glue, makers, yarn, embroidery floss and buttons (you know, the extra ones that came underneath new garments that you saved for "just in case?" Except you no longer own the garment?), bits of old pot potpourri, etc.
Here's an easy fudge recipe we've used for years: Spray an 8-ounce square baking pan with cooking spray.
Over low heat or double boiler, combine one 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk until melted.
Remove from heat and add a teaspoon on vanilla extract; stir to mix. Top with red sprinkles or cinnamon candy hearts.
Prepare ready-to-bake sugar cookies according to package directions. When cooled, decorate the tops with food coloring "paint."
Or add food coloring to prepared white frosting and spread over cooled cookies.
Or cut baked cookies into hearts, top with frosting and then stack them.
Finally, take packaged mint patties, frost and top with crushed candy canes (leftovers from the holidays will do).