Sunday, December 20, 2009

3rd and 4th Weeks of Advent Activities

15-Pick out Daddy's Christmas Gift (at Dollar Store)

16-Make Model Magic Ornaments

17-Exchange Gifts and Make Cookies with Ally

18-School Christmas Party and Mail Letter to Santa

19-Various Paper Christmas Crafts

20- Sunday School Birthday Party for Jesus and Watch Polar Express

21- Go See Santa and Play with Friends at the Mall

22-Get ready for Gammi and Grandad and Wrap presents, foam Christmas lacing cards

23- Gammi and Grandad arrive! Look at lights!

24- Christmas Eve- make Santa cookies and reindeer food

25- CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Calendar Crazy

Our original felt Advent Calendar
The Chairbacker Present we use for books
The Magnetic Cookie Tray Calendar

In addition to our Activity Advent Calendar (scroll down a few posts) we have several special ways to count-down to Christmas. We have a fairly elaborate first-thing-in-the-morning routine. As soon as Brady wakes up we walk through the house searching for Ernie, our Elf-on- the- Shelf. Then she heads over to the felt and magnetic Advent Calendars. She loves finding the little felt ornament to add to the tree. Adam was first to notice her linear arrangement. I wondered if she would stick with that and thus far, she has. Then she chooses a magnet cookie to place on the magnetic cookie sheet calendar (Thanks, Grams!) She often has a plan here, too- note the mittens placed side by side. Next up is our Activity Advent Calendar. She has to remember what date it is or go back to the "cookie sheet" and look under the last cookie. This has been a great and fun way to work on her number recognition for numbers higher than 10. I read her the activity. Finally, she heads to her dining room chair and grabs the book (or books) out of it. Last year I saw that several smart bloggy moms were wrapping their Christmas books and letting their children open one a day leading up to Christmas. I liked the idea, but didn't really like the labor or waste of wrapping that many books. So, I was hoping to find an alternate way to do this. Luckily, I found this little present chairbacker on clearance after Christmas at Pottery Barn Kids. This has been really fun. We have so many Christmas books that there are many days when she finds 2 or 3 books inside the present. Our little morning ritual has been a lot fun! And I'm already thinking we'll have to have some sort of countdown to Brady's Birthday (exactly one month after Christmas day) after Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2nd week of Advent Activities

Our (graham cracker) Gingerbread House
Christmas Sensory Tub- white rice- snow, dyed green pasta- holly leaves, dyed red pasta- berries?, beads- ornaments

8-M/ Moose Day (see post below)

9-Make and Play with Christmas Sensory Tub

10-Go to Gingerbread House Party (our friends had a gingerbread house open house)

11-Go to Parents' Night Off (hosted at Brady's school- full of snacks and Christmas movies)

12-Go to Advent Party (at Brady's school) and make Gingerbread Play dough

13-Write Letter to Santa and Make Draw and Cut Crafts

14-make Grams' Famous Sugar Cookies and Hot Chocolate

Friday, December 11, 2009

M is for Moose, Muffins, and Museum

One of our Advent Activities was an M Day. We recently checked out a few moose themed books so I decided we should have an M/moose day. And then this little "letter M antler moose" came to my mind.

1) Materials: regular yellow construction paper and large brown and blue (or color of choice) construction paper , googly eyes (you may be tempted to use big eyes, but as we learned in our moose research, moose actually have tiny eyes on the side of their head and rely largely on their senses of smell and hearing), black marker and glue stick

2)I simply drew a free hand a moose head shape, ears and a capital M. Here's a quick trip- I folded a piece of construction paper in half and drew a large capital M on it, so that when I went to cut it out I had 2 identical M's!

3) Cut it out! We shared in this duty.

4) Glue the head onto the background, glue ears, eyes, and M antlers. (You'll see below that initially our eyes were too close together.)

5) Have your kiddo draw large nostrils (remember they have a great sense of smell) and mouth.

Isn't this guy adorable? I'm pretty crazy about him!

To go along with our M theme and If You Give a Moose a Muffin book by Laura Numeroff we made and ate blueberry muffins for breakfast. We went to the Museum with some friends (this was already on our agenda).

We read several fantastic moose books!

1)The Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton is a hide -and -seek -book where you find a moose on each page spread. At the end of the book there is a section titled "Animals of the Northern Lands" which gives a quick factual blurb about each animal featured in the book. This book is put out by Barefoot Books, which I think are great. The illustrations are photos of embroidery and other embellishments.

2)If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff is one in the great If You Give a... series. We love everyone we've ever read. I won't go into a detailed description because I'm guessing you know about these.

3) Moose Tracks by Karma Wilson and Jack E. Davis is a fun silly book. The narrator tries to figure out why there are moose tracks throughout his house and in the end the narrator is revealed to be a moose himself.

4) Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini is a fun Christmas book. The main character is a moose father who has a huge mustache who is going to extremes to ensure the perfect Christmas for his family. It seems everything is going to be just right until they realize he's forgotten the Christmas tree. It's Christmas Eve and there are no trees to be found, so they twirl his mustache around him and decorate him!

I attempted to make "chocolate moose tracks". They were yummy, but awfully messy and difficult to work with, oh well, sometimes that's what you get when you cook on the fly.
We also made this cute moose puppet out of a lunch sack, googly eyes, a yogurt cup, glue, and construction paper. The antlers are Brady's hand prints. I got the idea and instructions here.

It was a fun, or maybe I should say a Marvelous M Moose Day!

1st Week of Advent Activities

Brady and her pal Ally enjoy ice cream as a tribute to Uncle Andrew.
Dad and Brady put the last touch on the tree.
B stirs the cereal for Snickerdoodle Chex Mix
1- make Snickerdoodle Chex Mix -get the yummy recipe here
2-make Christmas Wooden Spoon Puppets
3-celebrate "Uncle Andrew Day" and watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (more on this later)
4-go get Christmas tree
5-decorate Christmas tree and watch lots of Christmas shows
6-Make Felt Christmas Tree Ornaments (we simply cut out basic tree shapes and adorned with foam stickers on some, glued "jewels" on others)
7-Paint Christmas Crafts (Store-bought wooden Santa and Snowman frame)

Christmas Themed Wooden Spoon Puppets

One of our first Advent Activities was to make wooden spoon puppets. We brainstormed about Christmasy characters , then B quickly decided on Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Olive, the other reindeer. (Brady is pretty crazy about the book and movie Olive the Other Reindeer. If you haven't read it/seen it I recommend it.) Making the puppets was fun and easy! And you could do this a million other ways. It is so simple and straight-forward and adaptable that I feel silly posting steps, but here they are anyhow.
1) Gather your materials. We used googly eyes, felt, pom-poms, beads, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, markers, glue*, and scissors. And of course, wooden spoons- I found mine on clearance at A. C. Moore for 35cents! (Why is there no key for the cents sign?) *I'm fond of Beacon's Felt Glue. I think it's easy to use and has a strong hold.
2) Then just get to it. Cut felt and glue materials where you deem necessary.
3)Draw mouths and other small details with markers. Let it dry and have fun playing with your adorable puppets! We sure did.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Activity Advent Calendar

Last year for Advent Brady pulled a little treat attached to a ribbon out of her stocking each day leading up to Christmas. This was a tradition started in my family and boy do I love it. But, this year I really wanted to focus on activities rather than fun doo-dads and yummy candy. I have seen many a fun, cute, holidayrific advent calendar out there on the worldwide web. None seemed to fit my needs (use materials I already own, be changeable or add activities one at a time, fit in our space, be 3 yr old friendly) quite right, so On November 30th I stayed up half the night creating one. (That's classic me, in case you didn't know.) Good news is it was pretty simple.

First, I painted a tree on a foam core board. You could easily cut one out of scrapbook or construction paper if painting isn't your thing. Then I punched 24 circles out of various scrapbook papers that I had lying around, although I've never done any scrapbooking. I then placed the circles which are serving as ornaments around the tree until I came up with a layout I liked. Then I wrote, painted, or stickered the numbers 1-24 on the ornament circles in all sorts of ways. I used what I had within reach (paint, brushes, some # stickers, and an ebony pencil). I thought about getting up to get a sharpie, but at 1 am that just sounded like too much work. The last step was to hot glue tiny clothespins onto the tree to hold the ornaments and then, of course place the ornaments onto the clothespins. If I were to do this again I would either use larger clothespins or another means of attachment, those tiny ones are hard to open if the board isn't flat; ours is propped up or frame it somehow so that it was flat and a little fancier. Next year I'll probably stick with the same idea, but might change the whole shebang- who knows?!

Each night I write our activity on the back of the ornament. Every morning Brady pushes the clothespin top to open it and hands me the ornament to read the activity to her. Our "activities" are sometimes somewhat elaborate, other times it is something that is already on our agenda like decorating our Christmas trees, and sometimes they'll be downright simple such as watching a Christmas movie. It really doesn't real have to be that big of a deal, it just makes the "activities" that much more fun and festive and it takes the focus off of material things a little (maybe). Each week or so I'll post our activities.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to our family, friends, and beyond!

I Chronicles 16:34 "Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey Pizza

It is pretty common around here for our sandwiches to be cut with cookie cutters or for a lunch or snack to be artfully arranged to look like an animal or object of Brady's desire. So, on a recent pizza night when she asked for a "turkey pizza", I wasn't surprised. Initially I wasn't sure what to do, but then quickly came up with this guy. Actually this is the original's cousin; on the first night that we had "turkey pizza" my camera's battery was dead.

You could make this much more elaborate with colorful veggies and what have you, but I went with what we had on hand. First I took a little dough ball and placed it in the oven for a few minutes, so that it would keep it's dimension on the pizza and still be cooked through. Then I shaped the rest of the pizza dough into a basic turkey outline shape, using my fingers and a knife to keep the feathers slightly separated. I used 2 different types of cheeses (over regular sauce) on every other feather so there was a little variety. Pepperoni and roasted red peppers alternated each feather as well. The turkey's eyes are raisins, his nose is a leftover pumpkin seed, his waddle (is that the right term) is a piece of roasted red pepper, and the wings are covered in pepperoni. SO SIMPLE! It only took a few more minutes than our ordinary pizza and was such fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall Activities

We've been having fall fun around these parts. The first photo is a hand/arm print tree B made for my mom's 60th Birthday! Below are pictures of our fall rice/sensory tub. We dyed rice orange, red, and brown. To do this you simply put white rice in a zip top baggie, add a little food coloring and a small amount of rubbing alcohol (this keeps the rice from expanding or cooking in the liquid). Then squeeze and smoosh around until the rice is fully coated in the color. Then place on a baking sheet to dry over an extended period of time or put in a really low oven to speed drying time. I think I put it in at 300 degrees for about 7 minutes. Before mixing it together in the tub Brady and I spent some time drawing shapes and writing letters in the rice on the baking sheet. Great practice in a new, interesting manner. Check out the action shot of the red rice being poured into the tub. Once it was mixed we took turns hiding orange pom-pom "pumpkins" and finding them. Again using those fine motor skills. Funny story, when I told B that we were going to dye rice, she said in a panicky voice, "Die!, I don't like dying!" She was really relieved when it was further explained. And I realized to far in that I could have used brown rice for the "brown rice"- oh well.

Next up was a little leaf-hunting. We took turns placing silk leaves around the living room and finding them. Kids love hiding Easter eggs so why not take that fun into other seasons and holidays? (This picture is not B's best-ha ha!)

First Best Friend

Brady has surely been blessed with many wonderful friends from birth. But, she has never quite had a friendship like she has with Ally, her first true best friend. These girls are like sisters, fighting one minute and giggling the next. Brady asks about Ally everyday. Are we going to go to Ally's house today? When are we going to see Ally? When can Ally come to our house? Is Ally at school today? Can I call Ally? Everyday! It is such fun to witness the pure joy a great friend brings to my girl. (Oh, and an added bonus: her mama brings me much joy as well!)

Thankful Turkey

We've added a "Thankful Turkey" to our daily rituals this month. We did this last year as well. I think I first got the inspiration from the great site make and takes. Here's how it works: First I drew a simple turkey in 4 parts- head, body, and 2 wings. Brady decorated and glued them together. Then I cut out 26 feathers out of various colors of construction paper, one for each day of November. Each night Brady names something she is thankful for, I write it on a feather and add it to the turkey. On our dining table we keep a little cup holder full of the needed items: sharpie, feathers, and glue stick. This serves as a helpful reminder. Last year we keep the materials near the door where the turkey is displayed and many nights we forgot all about it.
Brady says a prayer right after choosing the person or thing she is thankful for that evening. It's important to me that she realizes whom we thank. One night she had two thankful items, because we had eaten out the night before. Her prayer was extra sweet that night, "Dear God, Thank you for Daddy and Ally. Thank you for everything in my life. Amen." Looks like the thankfulness lesson is setting in!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

October in Arkansas

Sadly, I took very few photos of our fantastic trip to Arkansas last month. Our trips are so full that it is hard for me to remember to get any pictures. Here is a quick run-down of our busy, fun schedule.

Wednesday - made the trip, arrived in the evening and ate dinner with all 4 grands!

Thursday-Brady went to Gammi's school all day and pretended to be a 4 year old while I slept in

Friday- We shopped, ate, and got Brady's hair cut with Nana and Lilly Kate. That night we went to Gammi's school carnival. (the top pic is of Brady at the carnival)

Saturday- We visited my Grams (mom's mom) , Aunt Bliss and cousins in Searcy. (And even ran into Anna Grace.) That evening we headed to Nana and Papa's to spend the night.

Sunday- Little Rock Church and lunch with the Chandler Clan and Will, Chandler, and Wyatt's football game. Then dinner at the Thomas house. The second picture is of B with Mary Claire and Paxton. Stayed at Papa and Nana's.

Monday- Win and Erin came over to play in the morning. The third picture is of the two crazies in their costume garb! Then we went to Conway to visit Meme, Papa (dad's parents), and the Bishops. Beth and I got to have lunch alone! We stayed so late Brady crashed on the way home and ended up sleeping in her day clothes. (that has never happened) The last picture is of Brady and Papa. One of my favorite pics ever.

Tuesday- We had lunch with dear friends Angela and Indy and their girls Violet and Johanna. That evening we went to a special reception and fundraiser for Andrew's Memorial Garden (we are still working on a more appropriate name) at CAC. The fundraiser was a special basketball game with the girls basketball team playing celebs from a local sports radio show. A great crowd showed up, much fun was had, and lots of money was raised!

Wednesday- We made our trip back home.

A Lovely Day

Today was a lovely day. Nothing all that extraordinary, but quite lovely just the same or maybe even more so. The weather was beautiful and much needed after five days of dreariness. We had a music and movement class at the library, then ate lunch and played at a favorite park. We ran into old acquaintances and made some new friends. At both locales Brady was on her best behavior. She was happy and quite independent. Climbing up playground equipment and going down slides while I watched on from afar! (not the norm for her) I overheard her introducing herself to other kids, "Hi, My name is Brady. What's your name?" So charming! Our time there was extended because it was so enjoyable. And when it was time to leave there were no fits, tears, or pleading.

We came home to a rested daddy and Duke eager to join in our fun. Brady had a quick rest time and then we set up a scavenger hunt of treats for Duke in the backyard. As the afternoon turned into evening there were books read and shows watched, tickle fests; dinner was made and eaten. Our day was seasoned with Brady's witty comments and thoughtful observations. Many times throughout the day I thought, "Man, I love this kid!" It was the kind of day I want to hold on to forever. The kind of day that makes all of those other kinds of days worthwhile. It was a lovely day.

These photos were taken of another lovely day this summer.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brady's Big Haircut

While we were in Little Rock (post coming soon) Brady got her first major haircut. She had had one cut months ago, but it was really just a trim. This time inches were cut. B's hair is of many types much like her mama's. The hair underneath was comprised of somewhat tight spiral curls which were much shorter than the straight and often stringy tresses on the outside. So, the goal was to even it out a bit. It looks much healthier and is much easier to deal with and she was quite proud. So here are the before and after pictures. The hairdresser did a quick blow-dry job on her hair so it's much straighter than usual.

Halloween Food

The night before Halloween we had a little Halloween style dinner: mummies (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls and cheese), witches' fingers (apple slices with a dab of laughing cow cheese and almonds), and pumpkin roll-ups (tomato basil wraps with turkey, laughing cow cheese, and basil).
We also had some H'ween inspired lunches. Orange carved to resemble a jack 'o lantern filled with mixed fruit and jack'o sandwich (food colored l.c. cheese with dried fruit face details and snap pea crisp stems.)

Halloween Friends

The Halloween festivities gave great opportunities for spending time with friends. The above picture shows Brady with some of her classmates at her school costume parade. I love that picture because it captures the excitement and love these girls have for each other. (And also the differences in their height!) One of B's school friends is in the picture below. We were able to spend a little time with her at Trunk-or-treat and the dinner afterwards.
This next picture is of Brady and her BFF Ally. These two girls act like sisters- fighting one minute and laughing the next. A couple of days before H'ween we went to a special storytime and then to eat at our usual spot afterwards. These smiles are authentic!
On Halloween night we ran into a few of our favorite boys, too. Holidays are so much better when shared with good friends.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Queen

Here is my lovely little Queen. Brady decided months ago that she would be a queen for Halloween. And so it was. She wore one of her gorgeous princess dresses and Nana made her a perfect cape to transform it to the next level of royalty. Add to that a scepter and crown (it doesn't match, which bothers me and not B, so I let it go, although obviously not completely or I wouldn't be writing this sentence) and we're good to go. Almost everyone got it wrong as I knew they would, but her majesty was quick to correct! First we went to Trunk-or-Treat at Brady's school and then we did some trick-or-treating in a nearby neighborhood and to a few houses in our hood.

The night before Halloween, Brady said,"How about our family dresses up for Halloween?" I said, "Well.." And she replied, "No, not our whooole family, just me and you and Daddy." Ha ha! It was decided that Adam would be a doctor, since he was heading to work after the first event.
And I was given the role of "star performer". I pulled together a simple outfit, lots of jewelry, too much makeup, and teased hair. Most importantly I carried Brady's play microphone, so I received her approval. Pretty sure most everyone else was trying to decide whether I was in costume or just had bad taste. My Queen was happy, so all was well.

The What, Not The Where

Our time here in North Carolina is dwindling. Adam's residency will be over in 8 short months. Adam's interview process begins tomorrow. The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter. And that is a VERY good thing. But, it is also scary. There are just so many unknowns in this situation. For a long while I was focusing on the where. Where will we live? Don't know. Where do I want us to live? I'm still not sure.

Then one day it came to me: I'm focusing on the wrong questions. I should be concerned about the what and not the where. So, what do I want in our next home? I desire a home, a true home. There have been a lot of great things about living in North Carolina (and there will be more in the months ahead), but it has yet to really feel like home. I desire a good job for Adam that will leave him fulfilled, yet challenged, happy and full of peace. I desire deep, spiritual relationships; transparent friendships for all of us individually and as a whole. I desire a neighborhood that is neighborly. I desire a church home that is welcoming, engaging; where we know and are known, where we give and take.

Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."