Monday, January 31, 2011

Things I'm Loving

We woke up in a grumpy mood at our house this morning.  We got off on a bit of a rocky start, but now things are looking up.  I'm choosing to remember the good things.

Here are a few reasons to be happy this morning:

Kisses good bye from my handsome husband.

Cinnamon-spice-cream-cheese-frosting scented babies in fuzzy yellow pj's to cuddle.


This adorable Valentine print (free!).

Rain outside my window.

A potty-trained three year old (hooray!).


"I love you's" and hand-blown kisses from my kindergartener at the school drop off.

A pumpkin cinnamon roll to eat (and share) for breakfast.

Warm showers.

Clean bathrooms.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Indoor Snow Day

Mr. One had a half day yesterday and I wanted to do something fun for the afternoon.

In truth, it is in the 70's here and perfect park weather, but I thought it would be fun to have a "snow day."

I told the kids to bundle up for our activities.  They looked at me like I was crazy and had to be persuaded to put on gloves hats and scarves.  Mr. Three was not happy about the hat and promptly took it off.

After gearing up, we poured on the snow.  (foam snowflakes and cotton balls)

We had snowball fights with the cotton balls and enjoyed examining the snowflakes.  It's not often I allow them to throw things in the house, let alone at each other or me.  Mr. Three loved picking up the flakes and shredding the cotton balls.  (I had to keep a close eye on him, lest he try and eat any of our snow.)

I gave therm tongs to collect and sort the flakes when we were through playing.  This was a more enjoyable (and a more challenging) way to clean up, especially with the big gloves still on.

In truth, I had intended to end our little snow day with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows, but I forgot not to let them have a dessert after lunch, homework and dinner preparation called, so we'll save that treat for another day.

I so often forget to stop and play with my kids.  Just a few minutes to get down at their level and be a kid myself is so refreshing.  I know they really appreciate it too. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Fun and Games Links

I wanted to share a few new links to more winter preschool activities that we have been enjoying at our house (besides the ones already under my winter tag).


Confessions of a Homeschooler's S is for Snowman post has lots of great printables.  Our favorite?  The prewriting skills printables.  I laminated, cut them into strips and hooked them together with an o-ring.  After adding a marker to the bag, I have a great activity bag activity, for home or on the go.

This winter fun packet from Musings of Me has lots of ideas.  My favorite?  The winter colors book.  This one is on our to do list for the week.  Also on the to do list, the Snowball Fight game.

We love penguins and goldfish crackers at our house, so the penguin fish cracker count from Making Learning Fun is a great fit.

Here are two more snowman activities from Making Learning Fun.

Collecting Snowballs was a big hit with my preschooler this week.  I love that there are two sets of playing cards to choose from, depending on your child's age and ability.   I would recommend using smaller counters for this game (the cotton balls are too big).  We used small florist stones as our "snowballs" or for a fun snack, use mini marshmallows.

This emergent reader, The Snowman Melting, is a fun little rhyme to teach your preschooler.  I plan on putting this story together with some o-rings, so the pages can be separated.  This would make it a great sequencing activity after reading the story.

Today's a half day for Mr. One, so I'm off soon to pick him up and have some fun together this afternoon.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

A while back, I posted a link to some pumpkin cinnamon buns.  They were good, but after a day, they tasted like the ones you buy at the store.  Kinda processed and overly soft.  (But that pic of Mr. Three is worth going back for...)


I found a new recipe, and let me tell you, they are FABULOUS!  More pumpkin flavor (but not so much it's overwhelming), lots of great spices, cream cheese frosting, and it even uses whole wheat flour for extra nutrition.  Whole grains?  Check!  Sneaky vegetables?  Check!  Cream cheese?  Check!  Great texture and taste?  Double check!

Try them, you'll be so glad you did. 

Oh, and here's a completely unrelated, but adorable, picture (to make up for the terrible one of my cinnamon roll). :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Christmas 2010: A Snapshot

We were able to spend Christmas in California with Mike's family this year.  It was a busy, wonderful week of family traditions, fun, chatting, karaoke (!!), games, toys and feeling the true spirit of Christmas.  Before heading to California, we had a little Christmas family home evening with my family here, full of gift opening, yummy food, and the Nativity play.  We are blessed to have wonderful family, both close by and a little farther away.

Here are some of my favorite pics:

Nativity play.

 My handsome husband decorating the tree.

Mr. Three standing up amidst the excitement.

Opening gifts.

 Cousin time!

Some of our favorite family gifts were games.  Here's two we love:

Curious George Discovery Beach

So this one was for Mr. Two's birthday, but I have to include it.  Perfect preschool game, and fun enough for the rest of the family.  It's "I Spy" with a twist:  You have several treasures hidden inside the gameboard filled with blue bead "water."  You take turns spinning a spinner which tells you which of the five windows you can peek in.  If you find a treasure that matches the cards out for play, you get the card(s).  Watch out for the wave on the spinner, as you shake the board, redistributing the treasures.  The first person to collect six cards wins.  This game is great for increasing memory and deductive skills.


This one is more for the older kids and parents, but the rules are simple enough for my boys to play too.  You have several game pieces that are one to six square combinations.  You must place pieces touching only corners of your own color (although you can place pieces alongside other players' colors).  The object is to play all of your pieces and prevent others from playing theirs.  The rules are simple, but the game can be quite a challenge!

Pictures of games from

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Easy Peasy Tote Bag

The Primary theme in our church this year is "I Know the Scriptures are True" and each of the children received a paperback copy of The Book of Mormon.  My boys were so thrilled to have their own scriptures and I realized that I needed to come up with something quick and simple for them to keep them in.  Then I remembered this project that some of my cousins shared at a family reunion a few years back:  Making a simple tote bag out of a fabric place mat.

Simple Tote Bag


You will need:

one fabric placemat
sturdy grosgrain ribbon
felt (optional)
fusible interfacing (optional)
letter template (optional)

I started out by printing an outline of the letter I wanted to applique on each bag.  You could use a stencil or even free hand this. 

Make sure that if you have an asymmetrical letter (like B) that you flip your letter before you trace it onto you interfacing.  Most printing programs have this feature, but if you don't have it (or if you are like me and can't find it...) just print your letter(s) use a black marker to trace the backside of the paper. 

Now trace your letter onto your interfacing then iron on to your felt and cut it out.

If you want to save yourself a lot of hassle, iron on your letter to your placemat before you sew your sides to make the bag.  Just make sure to fold your mat in half to see the front side and position your letter at least an inch and a half from the side and bottom.  Optional step:  Sew around your letter with a straight stitch onto the placemat after ironing in place.

Now, you can sew the sides of your bag.  Fold the placemat in half, with the right sides together, and sew up both sides with a straight stitch.  I went in about an inch on each sides to avoid sewing through the extra layers of the placemat near the edge.

Now, with your bag still inside out, pinch the bottom corners of the bag and pin them.  This will make a triangle.  You are going to sew across the corners of the triangle you just made about one inch from the corner to make the bottom of your bag.  I try and line up the fold of the bag bottom with the straight seam that I created to keep this corner stitch straight.  Turn your bag right sides out.  Almost done.

Now grab your ribbon and cut two equal lenghts to make your bag handles.  Heat seal your ribbon ends with a lighter or match (this will keep your ribbon from fraying), or use some fray check on the ends.  Find the middle of your bag and pin your ribbon equal distances from the middle to the top of your bag.  I pinned my ribbon ends just under two inches from the middle on each side and about one inch down.  Then, sew the ribbon ends onto the outside of your bag, making a square and then an "x" in the middle to secure them.  Repeat process for the back of the bag.

And that's it!  You have a cute little tote for your tot to carry a Bible and/or a Book of Mormon to church, for books in the car, or just to put treasures in.  Easy Peasy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mr. Two's Third Birthday

Poor Mr. Two's birthday falls in the beginning of December.  In that space of time where the "Christmas rush" is gaining speed and the to do lists get longer.  Having a husband and father who have birthdays close to the holidays as well, I consciously try to separate birthday celebrating from the holiday festivities.  No one wants to get lost in the shuffle, especially on their special day.

As each birthday approaches for my children, I have an inner struggle between what I envision is the perfect birthday and what both my children want and I can manage effectively.  I love the themed parties, with the coordinating invites and matching decorations and finger foods.  I admire the women (and men) who seem to pull them off seamlessly.  All of the time, effort and creativity is inspiring.  I am certain that their intent is to make their kiddos happy and to turn a birthday into a magical time.  There can be lots of love behind the party games and the intricate cakes.  But then I wonder, is it really what the children want, or what the parents want?  There is the key for myself.

Mr. Two is a very opinionated little guy.  He is the first to tell me if he doesn't like something, and the first to enthusiastically shout, "I love this!" about something he approves of.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, these are the things he wanted.  Believe me, he really knew what he wanted because I asked him several times.

1.  Hot dogs for dinner.
2.  A chocolate Nemo cake.
3.  To play games with the family.

That's it.

My initial thought was, "How on earth am I going to mesh those things together into a birthday theme?"  The more I pondered this, the more the realization came that it wasn't important to connect all the dots together to make an impressive picture.  It was important to listen and to act on what my little man wanted.  The connecting link was that these were all things that made him happy, and isn't that what a birthday celebration should be all about?  As this impression settled upon me, I went about making his day just what it should be:  A day about celebrating Mr. Two.

We started off the morning with a trip to Krispy Kreme doughnuts for his free birthday dozen and a paper hat.  Later, he wanted to water paint, so out came the watercolors, the water bowl, the brushes and the paper.  I watched him paint with his tongue hanging out, deep in the creative process. 

We met Mike at Sonic for lunch and Mr. Two ordered a grilled cheese kid's meal with an orange slushie.  Exactly what he wanted.  We had cheese pizza for dinner and let him open a few presents in the evening.  He went to bed happy and full of simple birthday memories.

On the weekend, we had his party at my parents' house.  We had a chocolate Nemo cake (which Mr. One helped decorate for his little brother), grilled hot dogs, opened presents and played games with family.  That's it.

And the beauty of the whole thing was that everyone had fun, focusing on my sweet newly-three year old.  I wasn't stressed out over the invites and the flower arranging and the party favors (we didn't need any of them).  I just soaked in the opportunity to listen to and love my cute birthday boy and build memories.  Isn't that what life is all about?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Penguin Art (with a little geometry snuck in)

Many of you may know by now that I love penguins, especially the Tacky the Penguin series by Helen Lester.  We've been reading a bunch of our favorite penguin tales and having fun with a wintery theme at our house.

Mr. One brought this adorable art project home from kindergarten last week, and I knew I had to try a preschool-friendly one out with Mr. Two.

Look at the adorable snowflakes in the background.

Looking at it, I realized how many simple shapes were used to construct it, so I turned it into a geometry lesson as well as an art project.

Here's Mr. Two's version.

Adorable, no?

Here's what we did.

You will need:
One sheet of blue construction paper
One 8 1/2" by 3 1/2" black rectangle
One 5 1/2" by 2 1/2" white rectangle
One 4" diameter orange circle
One 2 1/2" by 2" black rectangle, cut on the diagonal to make two triangles
One orange triangle, with approximately 1" sides
Two white hole reinforcement stickers
cotton balls
glue or glue stick

I wanted to include a little scissor practice into the project, so I had Mr. Two fold the orange circle in half and cut down the fold, then with one half, I had him fold it in half again (making two quarters of a circle) and cut on the fold.  This made the feet.

We then went through assembling the penguin one shape at a time, starting with our two large rectangles for the body, then the quarter circle feet, the triangle wings and ending with the circle eyes and triangle beak.

The cutest thing about this project was when we got to the end of making the penguin, Mr. Two said, "We need an egg!"  We had just read The Emporer's Egg, and our picture was incomplete without an egg resting on our bird's feet.  We added a white oval egg.

The last step was gluing on some soft cotton ball snow around the bottom of the picture.

linking up at ABC's and 123's Show and Tell and at Delicious Ambiguity's Tot Tuesday

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snow is Falling

Seriously, living in Arizona, our kiddos don't really get to see the real deal snow very often.  (Like they probably don't even remember seeing it...)  Last week, an especially cold and wet storm front moved in and we actually got snow here in the Valley!  Seriously, my hubby was at the shooting range with my brother and dad while the kiddos and Mom and I were out (grocery) shopping.  Mike called and said, "It's snowing here!" and then one of the Safeway employees got on the intercom and announced that flakes were falling outside.  Crazy!  I didn't really see any snow falling by the time we got out, but Mike got a great video of the snowfall on his phone.

Needless to say, now snow is kinda on my brain.  Here is a fun little snowflake project I did with my kids.  Thank you to my cutie sister in law for the idea.  You can see her original post here.

You will need:

iridescent or white sparkly pipe cleaners
white, clear, iridescent tri beads

Now, cut the pipe cleaners in half (I used 6).  Don't worry about getting them exactly in half, I kind of liked the irregular look.

Bundle the pieces together and take one of the pipe cleaners and wrap and twist it around the middle of the bundle.

Fan the pieces out to make your flake, and thread 2 or three beads onto each section.

Take deep breaths when your three year old insists on putting all of the beads on one section and just let him be happy with his independence. Use lots. of. will. power. to leave it alone and let it be.

If you're still up for more snowy day inspired activities, check out this post, this post and this post for more ideas.  (My Mr. Two loves the felt snowflake building activity).  Here are some great wintery reads here as well.

*linking up at ABC's and 123's Show and Tell and Delicious Ambiguity's Tot Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011: New Year, New Word

2010 was all about peace. It was a worthy goal.  Just having that one word lingering in my mind for the year was empowering.  Although I frequently fall short of all that I want to accomplish, I love the idea of choosing one word for the new year and using it as a platform for improvement.

This year, I pondered what I should focus on and was left with a big blank.  What word encapsulates what I hope to achieve this year?  Then, it came to me.  Softly and resolutely.  Home.

I need to focus on home, in the literal and not so literal sense.

I want to stop looking at our house as the land of "what could have been" or the "if only I had's." I will be content with what it is and make it a more functional and beautiful space.  We never imagined we'd still be here with three young children, but this is how it is and there's no looking back.  The time for wishing for a bigger and better home is past.  It's time to embrace the tiny house and stop being at war with what it is.  This won't be easy with a budget that really doesn't have any room for "extras" or with three little boys and two old white couches... Luckily, I have a talented, design-savvy husband to work together with in all of these home improvement endeavors.

I want my boys to take more responsibility for the upkeep of our home.  I want them to learn to clean and to take care of our living spaces. They are capable of so much more than I normally give them credit for.  I want a more effective cleaning routine for myself.

I am going to make it work.  I will not expect perfection, but I will work towards a better dwelling.

The most important thing that I want to work on is creating a better home for my family in the emotional and spiritual sense.  A soft place to land, a safe harbor, a space for listening and learning and loving.  I want to be present for them.  I want to feel the Spirit here.

I want my home to be full and happy.  I want it to be a welcoming space where I want to linger and not run from.  I've spent a lot of years running from the reality of being in charge of my space and being accountable for raising my family without dependence on others.  My default mode it to go somewhere else:  take the kids to the park, to story time, to my parents' home.  While this is a good thing at times (I do love my extended family and appreciate all that they do for us), I am beginning to realize that I want to create memories in my own abode.  After a week of Christmas away from home and all of the hustle and bustle and letting other people set the agenda, I realize that I sometimes let life slip through my fingers and I've been counting on others to fill in the spaces.  No more.  I want to consciously do things and find opportunities to strengthen my family bonds.  I will work in harmony with my husband to strengthen our family.  We will continue to develop habits that will bring us together, such as prayer, scripture study, FHE, and just spending quality time with our family.  I want my children to know that I love them and I am listening. Because I am and I will.

I admit, this is a lofty goal, and one I know I won't accomplish in a year.  However, I know that I can create a better home, in partnership with my husband and with a lot of divine help.