Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun

We traveled to California to have Thanksgiving with Mike's family this year.  I don't have many pictures, but here is a run-down of the fun we had.

The first part was not so fun.  Driving late Wednesday afternoon.  The traffic out of Phoenix was brutal, so we added an hour onto our drive time.  The kids were fairly good in the car.  The promise of a Happy Meal at the mid-point of the trip always helps!

Turkey day was filled with lots of good food, game playing and several Nerf gun battles.  The boys were totally happy.

I don't know why I don't ever take pictures during the actual dinner.  I guess no one wants pictures of themselves stuffing their faces!  After dinner, we put in a movie and played games, making sure to sample all of the yummy pies and cookies for dessert throughout the night.

Friday morning, I woke up before 6 am to make it to the JoAnn's black Friday sale.  Mike got major brownie points for driving me there and then staying and helping as I waited for 3 hours to get my fabric cut and purchased.  (Big thanks to Mike's family for watching our kiddos while we were gone.)  We also found a new Nativity ornament and a few other little Christmas items.  I have the best husband!  It was actually fun and most people there were in a great mood and chatty.  I met a lady who had a son who served a mission for our church in Arizona and even served in my home town.  What a small world!

After lunch, the girls set out for another round of shopping.  Target and Old Navy were surprisingly calm.  I guess it helps to go later in the day, although the selection is limited with some items.  I found most of the few things that I was looking for, so it was great.  The boys and kids had fun playing at the nearby park, more Nerf gun battles, and watching Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving and other kid videos at Grandma and Grandpa's house during the day.  The boys just couldn't get enough cousin time!

Mr. Three also managed to have a little fun with my eyeliner and mascara.  He needed a little battle paint, I guess.

After a dinner of tamales and leftover pie, we played some more games and visited.  After 11:00 pm, I finally had to exit the fun to get some sleep.  This pregnant body couldn't stay awake any longer, so I retired early to my bed.

We headed home on Saturday full of good food and memories, grateful for the time we could spend with the whole family gathered together.  We are blessed to be able to travel and be with our Croft family at least a few times a year.  We just wish we could see them more often!

I hope your Thanksgiving was happily full as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all are having a wonderful thanksgiving, with lots of delicious food to gobble, gobble up!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Miscellaneous Pre-Thanksgiving Items

This weekend, the fall baking bug bit hard.

I made Baked Pumpkin French Toast for Sunday morning breakfast.  Yum!

I also found some beautiful ripe pomegranates at the store and couldn't resist getting one.  Mr. One loves pomegranates.  I had to try out this recipe for double dark chocolate pomegranate cookies.  They were even better than the gorgeous pictures showed!  I won't admit to how many I've eaten in the last few days.  I'm eating for two, so a few extra are warranted, right?

A little hint about getting the seeds out of the pomegranate:  After cutting your pomegranate open and into large sections, try pulling them from the peel under water, then you won't spray juice all over yourself and your kitchen (or at least it will minimize the damage).  Trust me on this one.  I have a purple stained white tee and a purple-pink speckled kitchen to prove it before I figured this out...

I also printed, laminated and cut out some of the activities from this Thanksgiving preschool pack for Mr. Two to use.  He and I especially liked the puzzles and the pre-writing trace pages (I laminated them so that he could use a dry erase marker on the pages and wipe them off).

Here are two of the cheapest toys (and by cheap I mean free because they were made from things around the house) I've made to date.  Mr. Three loves both of them almost as much as our cell phones, remote controls and car keys...

The first toy was an idea I took from my sister in law Jenny.  She had made one for her two year old and I loved it.  Clean an empty Parmesan cheese container and grab a handful of pipe cleaners.  If you fold the pipe cleaners in half and twist them around each other, folding the ends in (so your kiddos don't poke their hands), it is the perfect size to fit into the container.  It also makes them sturdier to handle.  Then your child can poke the pipe cleaners into the container through the holes in the lid.  If they struggle to poke them into the small holes in the lid, open the other side with the wide opening and they can put the pipe cleaners in the container this way.  They can also shake the pipe cleaners out by opening the wide side of the lid to play again (or just unscrew the lid...).  

The second toy is just an old wipes container with an oval slot in the lid.  The oval is just the right size to fit the mini playdoh lids through.  I also had some small foam blocks that another sister in law found in the Target dollar spot that fit perfectly as well.  (Thanks Carla!)  Mr. Three loves putting his shapes into the container and dumping them out again.

Don't you just love toys that don't cost a thing?

Hooray for two more activity bag ideas for my toddler.  These are great to throw in my church bag as well.

Now I need to get off the computer so that I can work on Thanksgiving pies and other preparations.  Oh, and maybe actually mop my floor...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's in Your Treasure Box?

I love organizing things.  Having all of my boys' toys organized is a high priority.  In order to contain all of the little "junky" or just miscellaneous toys that my kids accumulate, they each have a treasure box to place these items in.  The rule is, if you add something new and the lid won't close, you have to give something away so that it will fit.

I love looking inside their treasure boxes to see what they want to keep.  It's a little window into their personalities and interests.

Mr. One and I have not been on the best of terms this week.  Our mornings have been particularly rough.  He's reluctant to get up and do his chores.  I get frustrated.  There is general grumpiness and groundings.  I want to figure out how to make our mornings more peaceful.

Yesterday morning was particularly grumpy.  I did manage to send him off with "I love you's" and at least half-smiles at the door.

Mr. Three found Mr. One's treasure box later in the morning and accidentally dumped it onto the floor.  I took a deep breath and tried not to be exasperated as I turned to help him pick up the contents of the box.  Then I found a slightly rumpled family picture (a print that Mr. One wanted to bring to show and tell earlier in the school year) in the midst of the silly bands, super heroes and Toy Story figures.  It melted my heart and made me realize that our family is a treasure to him.

They are a treasure to me.  How lucky I am to have such a sweet little boy in my life.  I want to make sure he knows how much I treasure him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Activity Bags, Continued

Yesterday morning, Mr. Two was really interested in using some of the activity bags that I have made.  He started digging deeper into my box and pulled out a few that I had forgotten about.  I thought I'd share two that were big hits.

Silly Putty Treasure Hunt

In the bag:
silly putty with small tri-beads hidden inside

Mr. Two found this and started to play with the putty, quickly realizing that there were things inside of the putty.  He excitedly declared, "Pirate treasure!" and spent a good amount of time digging for treasure and re-burying it to play again.  I am finding with him, anything pirate-ish helps increase interest as of late.

I got this idea from a friend who worked with special needs children, many of whom had fine motor skill challenges.  This simple activity strengthens the small fine motor muscles in fingers and hands as the pull and stretch the putty and pick out the small beads.  Exercising these muscles is critical to improving writing skills. 

This was a favorite of Mr. Three (who is 19 months)

Egg Carton Sort

In the bag:
one egg carton (I happened to have an 18 count egg carton, so there were more pockets to fill)
small plastic items (I used soft plastic farm animals)

Mr. Three loved placing one farm animal in each carton pocket.  It was funny to see him start out by grabbing a handful of animals and cramming them into the carton.  With just a little guidance, he began to place each animal in their own pocket.

This was a great introductory activity to develop one to one correspondence.  You could extend this activity for older children by having them make patterns with the animals in the rows, organizing by color or type of animal, or even having them place matching pairs in each pocket.

I am excited to see that my toddler is interested in some of the learning activities I have made for my older boys.  Now I need to think more actively about activities to engage both Mr. Two and Mr. Three.  Let the fun begin!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Five Crows

I have a cute scarecrow/crow illustration that my friend and former teacher's aide drew for me for a fun little song I used to use in Kindergarten for my Fall unit.  I've always wanted to post it to share, but I don't have a clue how to put it up for someone to download/copy.  (I am technically challenged.  Help!)

Here's my original.

When I saw this adorable free printable counting crows activity (and some more great printables) from Michelle of Musings of Me, I thought it was a perfect fit for my little song.  So, if you'd like a cute scarecrow and crows to use for the song, you can go here to download the file.  Or you could make your own (or sweet talk an artistic friend into making you one, too).

Here's the song:

Five Crows All Shiny Black
(to the tune of Five Little Speckled Frogs)

Five crows all shiny black,
sat on a scarecrow's back
eating some most delicious corn, "caw, caw."
Scarecrow winked and shouted, "Boo!"
Scared one crow, away he flew.
Now there are four black shiny crows.
(You continue the verses until you have no crows left)

I laminated my scarecrow on construction paper with the printed song on the back.  I also laminated my five black crows.  I then attached five squares of sticky velcro to above the scarecrow so the crows would sit on its arms, and a strip of velcro to the back of the scarecrow page so they could fly away (and not get lost).  Then, I added velcro to the bird backs.

My kindergarteners loved this, and I have used it with Nursery aged and preschool aged children as well.  It is a favorite Fall song.  Thanks Michelle for an awesome printable to use with this!

*linking HERE

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkins, Playdough and Pinterest

Besides craving potatoes, I have also been on a big pumpkin kick.

(all of the sweets to decorate our pumpkin cookies)

We have already made pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies and tonight we're having pumpkin treats for our Relief Society meeting.  I can't wait!  By the way, Sees has pumpkin pie truffles that are the perfect bite of pumpkin heaven, and Sonic's pumpkin pie shake is another great sweet fix.

Mr. Two and Mr. Three had fun playing with playdough yesterday morning.

Mr. Two made some fine feathered turkeys, too.

While the boys played with their playdough, I pinned some Thanksgiving/Fall ideas.  Is anyone else on Pinterest?  I love this site!  I can catalog all of the great ideas I find online and save them in one place without having to make my own word document lists.  As an added bonus, you can search for other great ideas that others have pinned.  I am here if you're interested. (Yes, I know I need to upload a picture.  I'm working on that...)

While Mr. Three napped, Mr. Two and I played this cute dice toss game.  He loved it (especially the candy corn eating).

A funny side note:  Mr. Three burped yesterday at lunch and said, "'Scuse me."  It was so cute! I love the starting-to-string-words-together stage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Baby Update

We just found out that baby #4 is going to be....

another little Mr.

I will admit, I cried when I saw the proof and I was disappointed.  Maybe a tad angry.
I know this is selfish and narrow minded, but it's how I felt and I'm being honest.
I have always wanted a little girl, and now it seems those dreams may never be realized.

I drowned my sadness in potatoes that day (potato casserole and baked Lays potato chips) and a good cry.  I called my close friend and cousin who also has four little boys and we chatted about being daughter-less and the joys and pitfalls of being surrounded by males all day.

I began to feel better.  I tried to unloose the grip that self-pity had on me.

The thing that really helped the most was sincere prayer and reflection on the blessings that are already in front of me.  I have four healthy boys.  I have a loving husband.  I know I am a daughter of God.  I know the Savior loves me and has suffered not only my sins, but my sorrows and pain.  I have family and friends who love me.  I have a safe home and faith to cling to in difficult times.  I have scriptures to study and inspire me.  I have lots of chocolate left over from Halloween.  I could go on.

Then, yesterday, I gave away all the boxes of little girl clothes that I had been keeping (hand me downs from a good friend that I had just in case).  I think this started out being the hardest thing of all because it was an acknowledgement that we may never have a daughter.  Then, when I handed them over to friends I knew needed them for their daughters, I felt so much better.  Literally, a load was lightened.

Now, I look forward to seeing this new babe.  To touch his soft face and hear those newborn noises.  To feed and diaper and hold him close.  I am truly excited.  He is already loved.  I am blessed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween 2011

How was your Halloween?  I hope it was all treats and no tricks!

Here's a few fun things we did to celebrate.

Friday night, we opted out of the school carnivals and enjoyed a pumpkin filled evening at home.  We picked out two plump pumpkins to carve, munched on See's marshmallow pumpkins after dinner (a favorite childhood tradition of Mike's), and watched The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown with lots of popcorn.

Here's our finished pumpkins from a few days later.  I cannot claim any credit for these.  The boys wanted to make Lego Hero Factory pumpkins and they helped Mike pick out which characters to carve (Surge and Witch Doctor).  They scooped and cleaned, and Mike carved.  Pretty fierce!

Saturday night was our church carnival and trunk or treat.  The little boys spent the majority of the night jumping in the bounce house, almost missing the trunk or treat.  Even thought they may have missed the other games and treats, they had a ball!  Mike and I had fun watching them and visiting with church friends.  We decorated our van like a pirate ship.  Unfortunately the sail didn't make it that night (it was too big to fit in the car).  We set it up and took pictures later. :)

The whole family:  Mike is the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride, Mr. Three is the parrot to my pirate, Mr. Two is a monkey pirate and Mr. One is a Lego Space Police officer.  Gotta love my kid's imaginations!

Parrots love their candy!

Monday night, we headed to my parents' house for our traditional spooky Halloween dinner and took the kids trick or treating.  They came home a lot less tired than they should have been (sugar anyone?).  Luckily, they hit the sack with little complaint.

Oh, and one more little treat:  In case you couldn't tell in the pictures (and you haven't seen me in person lately), baby #4 is coming in April!  We are very excited.  Hence, the infrequent posting.  Sorry about that.  We'll know soon whether it is another Mr. or a Little Miss soon...