Raise your hand if you are a mom and you felt like your lovable huggable squeezable toddler kind of wanted to kick you in the shins after your brought home a new baby. Oh, good, I thought it was just me.
To be fair to Gavin, the kid has been through a lot in his four short years. He was born the same day I lost my mom and I was a hot mess during the first year of his life. He was only two and a half when we decided to move, and I think everyone knows how stressful a move can be. Well, mid move, our very loved dog contracted a super rare illness. She was healthy one day, and ten days later we were saying goodbye to her. I was also eight months pregnant. And then just a month after we got into our new house, we lost our sweet Elliot, Gavin's little brother.
That is a picture of us before we were hit with the hurricane known as the summer of 2010.
Then the poor kiddo had to deal with a very stressed out mom who was dealing with being pregnant after losing a baby just months earlier. Gavin is on a path to sainthood.
That is Gavin kissing my belly when I was pregnant with Quinny.
If you know Gavin, you know why God made him my first baby. If you don't, let me tell you about him. He is going to be a Broadway Star. Or the Secretary of State that finally brings peace to the Middle East. Or a barista at Starbucks. Or a stay at home dad. All noble professions. Either way, he will make people laugh and smile and bring joy to the hearts of many. When he was two he came up with the word "fenky" to describe anything he didn't like. He's hilarious.
And to be fair, he does love his little sister.
A few days after we brought her home, he nicknamed her, "Quinny Coo Peanut Poo." It stuck.
But even though he loves his little sister buckets, life between Gavin and I has just not been the same since Elliot died. It's like he knew how much my heart was aching. And it took a toll on us. Shortly after Elliot died, he started requesting that his dad be the one to put him to bed each night. It's been really hard, but I understand.
Well, enter the Bunny Houses. Why Bunny Houses you ask? Well, where do your Easter Peeps live?? That's what I thought. They've been homeless, haven't they?!! Spending their nights in the gutters of your countertops, getting all hard and stale. (But let's be honest, they taste better that way.)
I don't know that Gavin has been this excited for a project in a loooong time. We started collecting decorations long before I made the houses. And each time we went to the grocery store, he would ask to look for more. And I let him. He would even remember when we needed to find something additional we hadn't collected yet. Like coconut shavings for the grass, or cotton candy for the truffala trees.
The morning that the house was finally stable and ready to be decorated he yelled, "IT'S BUNNY HOUSE DAY!!!" And at the end of the day he said, "This was the best day ever, Mom." This is him getting started. Notice the bed head and the pajamas. He was too excited to get dressed first.
The best part of Gavin's house, is his narrative of what each thing was.
Wild cat? I love the wild cat.
I decided to make my own Bunny House, since I thought Gavin and I might have different . . . visions.
My house is where Type A bunnies live.
The Bunny House project kind of changed things for Gavin and I, as silly as that may seem. He now requests that his dad and I put him to bed together. He calls it Family Bedtime. We read a book, with Nathan and I each doing different voices for the different characters, say prayers, and sing the goodnight song that we made up for Gavin when he was a wee little baby. Clearly there is only one explanation, Bunny Houses are magic.
Yup, that's me biting Gavin's head. He's delicious.
Gingerbread Dough Recipe (from the wonderful Glues, Brews, and Goos)
(Enough for one house)
6 cups of flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsps ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening (see tip below)
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup molases
- Combine 5 cups of flour (the extra cup will be used at the end) with the spices, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl.
- Mix the shortening and butter in other mixing bowl. Cream in the sugar.
- Add the molasses and eggs.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients.
- Scoop the dough out of the bowl and place it on lightly floured kneading surface. Knead, adding more flour if necessary, to make a substantial dough. (I added about almost the full cup, until the dough stopped being super sticky).
- Let the dough mellow for a half hour on the counter and another half hour in the refrigerator, an hour total. If you keep it in over night, you will need to let it rest for a half hour out of the refrigerator before you try to roll it out.
- Preheat the oven to 300.
- Roll it out on some parchment paper (see tip below) and use the wax paper templates (download templates below) to cut out each piece with a sharp knife. Remove wax paper before baking.
- Bake thin gingerbread for 6 minutes and thicker gingerbread for 10 to 15 minutes. (Mine all needed about 12 minutes.)
- Use excess gingerbread to make flowers and signs.
- Dry out gingerbread on paper towels overnight (see picture below).
(Enough to construct one house and have some excess for decorating)
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 pound confectioners sugar
- Combine ingredients in the mixing bowl.
- Beat at high speed until somewhat stiff peaks form (see pictures below).
- Optional: Add some color to the icing to make a more colorful glue.
- Glue your house!!
- Use a flat surface covered in aluminum foil to build on (see tip below)
- Put down your square floor piece, and then put frosting on the bottom of one wall, propping it up with a glass to keep in place (see picture below).
- Add frosting to the bottom and side of another wall, propping it next to the first wall and adding another glass so it stays up. Continue until all the walls are up.
- Leave the frame of the house for an hour so that it really sets.
- Add the roof.
- Again, let it rest for an hour before you start decorating.
- Use a measuring cup filled to the 1 cup mark with water to measure your shortening. Throw in some shortening and submerge it in the water, until the water is displaced to the 1 1/2 cup mark.
- There are a lot of steps involved in the baking and construction, plus they need to sit out on paper towels and dry overnight, so do all the dough making and baking at night after your bunny house engineer goes to bed.
- Get your counter a little damp before you put down some parchment paper to roll out your dough. It will keep your paper from moving so much.
- If you have a Silhouette, use my templates to cut out templates out of wax paper. Download the front and back of the house here (7.5 in. by 4.12 in.), side of the house here (bottom rectangle 7 in. by 4.25 in. and top triangle peak part with a height of 4.25), bottom piece to guide construction here (7 in. by 7.5 in.), and roof piece here (9 in. by 6 in.).
- The frosting is done when it has the same consistency of marshmallow fluff.
- If you want to decorate the sides of your house, do it before construction, so the frosting doesn't run.
- Use a flattened box, secured with tape, covered with aluminum foil, to be your base that you build on.
- Glasses are a good way to prop up the house.
- Truffala Trees only stay fluffy for like 15 minutes, so enjoy!
One final tip: If you don't want your engineer to eat their creation, let them know ahead of time!! There were many tears at the suggestion that we were leaving this alone to be decoration.