Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Few Christmas Odds and Ends

I have been spending as much time during naps and kiddo's bedtimes catching up on Christmas projects.  We've been baking, sewing, crafting, cleaning, budgeting, and planning at our house.

I have the teacher gifts completed.

I still have a few more handmade projects to finish (or start...), starting with a stocking for Mr. Three.

We baked treats for my extended family Christmas dinner (yummy Mexican food) that was this past Sunday.  Here's a snippet of what I made.  Warning, share these babies, because you will be tempted to finish them off yourself, and your waistline will not be happy!

From the top going clockwise:  cran-pistachio cookies, white chocolate cashew fudge, double dark chocolate pomegranate cookies.

We watched these two Christmas videos last night for FHE to put us in the Christmas spirit.  They are reminders that the best gifts we can give to the Savior are gifts of service and love for our fellow men. 

Wise Men Still Seek Him and The Coat

I'm looking forward to having my kids out of school and for Mike to have some time off of work so we can enjoy being all together.

Hoping everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday and remembering to spread Christmas cheer all through the week!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Tree Lights Game and Some Sewing

Yesterday, I pulled out this Christmas game for my boys to play before bedtime.  It was such a hit that Mr. Two immediately pulled it out and wanted to play with it again this morning!  Thanks to Joyfully Weary for some great activity ideas here.

I found the green foam cone and some plastic light pegs at Michael's for half off.

I put 25 light pegs into each glass custard cup and had the kids take turns rolling the dice and putting that number of lights on the tree.  Whoever uses all of their lights first wins.

Mr. Three had lots of fun rolling the dice while the others played.

After the older boys went to school, Mr. Three tried to play the game on his own.  It was so cute to see him roll the dice, stick a light in the tree and roll again.  Then he discovered how much fun it was just to play with the lights, letting them jingle in the bowl and spill through his fingers.  I forget how much he is growing into a little boy.  Not a baby anymore.

The only drawback to this is that the pegs leave large holes in the Styrofoam, so I don't think it's going to survive more than one year.  Maybe I'll try covering it in play dough or clay to reuse it. 

On another note, I got back into sewing mode last night and finished my boys' bow ties for church.  I think they'll look very dapper indeed!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beginning Sound Blackout

Mr. Two is really into beginning sounds right now.  We played a Christmas blackout game today that I had already made up.  We took turns drawing a card and matching it on our board if we had the beginning sound for the card (I used stickers for my cards).  If we didn't, it went back to the bottom of the stack.

Keep playing until one player has all of their letters covered for a blackout.  To make my game self-checking, I wrote the name for each picture and the beginning sound letter on the back of each card.

Then I thought about all of the little Christmas miniatures I had on hand.  For a different variation, place one object in a small bag to match each letter on the game board, then instead of drawing a card and matching it onto the board, choose an object to match.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas (Playing) Cards

We have several sets of Christmas playing cards in our house.  Mr. Three loves to open things up like that and dump them all over the floor.  While I was cleaning up one set of cards, I noticed that the Christmas shapes that were used for the suits were all shapes that I had foam stickers of as well.  That got the wheels turning in my head.  For once, I'm happy that my little mischief-making Mr. Three made a mess, because I came up with a fun little preschool game.

First, I dumped out all of the foam shape stickers and had Mr. Two sort them, putting any shapes that didn't match the suits of the cards in a little bowl to the side of the sorting tray.

After we had our four shapes, I placed the set of playing cards (the snowmen) in the center section of the tray (pulling out all of the non-numerical cards and putting them aside first).

Mr. Two drew a card, and placed the corresponding number of shapes on the rectangle tray.  When he was finished, he put the shapes back in the sorting tray and the card in the small dish, then drew a new card.  This was a fun way to practice counting.

I may try and pull this out later and have him play with his older brother or myself, each person drawing and card and counting out the number of shapes to compare.  Or maybe we'll just play war with the cards!

Mr. Two's Birthday and a Christmas Piano Recital

This weekend was a combination of birthday celebrating, some Christmas shopping and a holiday piano recital.

Friday was birthday time for Mr. Two.  My mom watched Mr. Three so I could help in Mr. Two's classroom that afternoon.  He loved having me there, and I loved being there with him.  I helped the class do some crayon art and helped pass out birthday cupcakes.

Mr. Two wanted two things for his birthday:  an army cake and hot dogs.  It was a perfect dinner for him.  Want to know how I made the cake?  Go here.  I was so excited to see how well it turned out.

One of his gifts was a little bag of toy solidiers.  I made the bag out of unbleached muslin that I added a freezer paper stencil to.  I used the Dock 51 font for the lettering and Mike helped design the star logo.

As he opened each present, he seemed genuinely excited about each one.  I love how grateful this little guy is.  He liked each gift he unwrapped and played with all of them.

Mr. One was really excited to help him build this Lego set we found for Mr. Two and they played with it for a long time together.

The Hot Wheels Toy Story track and remote control car were also big hits.  There have been lots of shouts of, "To infinity and beyond!" and big giggles at our house for the past several days with these two toys alone.

Saturday was the Christmas Piano Recital.  Each student played a different Christmas song.  It was nice, short and fun to listen to.  Mr. One did a wonderful job.

Here's video of his song (for those that are interested).  He played Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.


After the recital, my parents and sister were nice enough to watch the kids so Mike and I could finish up some Christmas shopping.  (Thank you!)  Ahh, alone time, even if it's running errands!

Then we all headed to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.  A family favorite.

Our Christmas shopping is almost done.  Fingers crossed we can be finished in the next few days!  Then I can focus on the wrapping and finishing up a few homemade projects.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Note to Self: Toddlers, Icing Colors and Camouflage Cake

*Mr. Two's birthday is coming up, so we are shifting gears just for a few days and doing birthday fun, then we'll resume the Christmas cheer!

Dear Self,

The counter is not a safe place to put 12 little bottles of gel icing coloring that you borrowed to make a birthday cake.  Mr. Three can reach lots and lots of things on the counter.  When there's a will, there's a way.

If said toddler finds this little box of bottles, be prepared for one colorful adventure.  Count on colorful fingers and tongues.  Also prepare yourself to do a little detective work to figure out which of the twelve bottles matches the twelve color-labeled caps.

Good times I tell you!

Note taken.  Now on to the cake!

After figuring out which colors were which and recapping all bottles, I worked on Mr. Two's birthday cake.  He wanted an "army cake" so I decided to try my hand at making a camouflage cake.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.

Here's the lowdown:

I used a white cake mix, following the directions to make the batter.

I divided the batter into four bowls and colored each bowl a different camouflage color.  I used green, a combination of green and teal, brown, and then I tried to use the copper coloring, but it looked so bad, I just added about 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder to the batter to make it darker and fix the color disaster.

Side note:  I think if I would have re-mixed the batter again (to get more air in the batter) after coloring it, the cake may have risen better (the box said to immediately pour the batter into the pans and bake after mixing).

Next, I randomly placed blobs of different colored batters in my two pans to create a camouflage look, then swirled the whole thing very gently with a knife just once (too much swirling and you'll end up with a yucky mess).

Bake and cool.

It looked so great, I'm almost tempted not to frost it, but let's face it, who wants to eat an unfrosted cake?

So a layer or two of chocolate and some plastic (washed) army guys on top, and we have ourselves an army cake!

Happy Birthday Mr. Two!  We love you!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Candy Cane Treats

Today was a half day for Mr. One, so I was able to have all my boys home to do some activities during the day.

I decided to stick with a candy cane theme when I came across this recipe for Peppermint Bark Rice Krispie Treats.  Oh, yummy!

I couldn't find the peppermint marshmallows at my grocery store, so I used mint extract.  They still turned out delicious.

This was such a fun recipe for my kids to help make.  They loved mixing and dumping the ingredients.  They enjoyed sampling the marshmallows and chocolate chips.  The best part was crushing the candy canes into sprinkles.  They could have pulverized candy canes (with lots of pausing to taste their creations) all afternoon!

They also played a few rounds of candy cane concentration and made a candy cane wall hanging.  I changed it up a bit from two years ago and had them glue tissue paper squares onto waxed paper so we could hang them in the window for an easy decoration.

I even squeezed in three badly needed haircuts during Mr. Three's naptime (he woke up half way through, so I went ahead and clipped his hair too).  (Mostly) neatly trimmed and clean, all before dinnertime.  Not too shabby.

All in all, it was a pretty sweet day!

Christmas Game Fail

I found this cute Christmas tree game last year, laminated it and had it ready for my boys to play.  They weren't interested then, so I pulled it out for the family to play tonight.  It started out fine, but Mike and I soon realized that there were just as many "go back" cards as "move forward" ones.  Needless to say, we were stuck at start and not really moving as we went through the cards a few times.  Not fun.

Game fail.

I'm ditching the cards next time.  I'll either be making my own (with just 3 or 4 bad luck cards and at least 12 good cards), or just using a cube with numbers 0 to 4 and one lose a turn space to determine how many spaces to go.  So, fair warning:  If you want to print this game out, the game board is cute, but be prepared to do some modifying.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Decorating the Tree

Monday night was Family Home Evening.  We used this lesson that I had made a few years ago to talk about the symbols of Christmas.  Then we decorated the tree.


The boys loved hanging up all of their ornaments in the front and center of the tree.

Mr. Three loved pulling them off.  After it was decorated, we stood back to admire our work.

My mom found these glasses at Walgreens several years ago.  If you look at the lights, they will project snowflakes, Santas or snowmen on the lights.

The kids love to put them on and stare at the Christmas tree.

After some scripture reading and our Christmas bedtime story, we had a cup of hot chocolate and went to bed.  It was a nice cozy night together.

Now I have to keep Mr. Three away from the tree.  I think we will be doing more errand running while he is awake during the day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Breakfast with Santa, a Trek to Bethlehem and a Christmas Devotional

This weekend we participated in several Christmas activities.

Saturday morning, Mike went to help set up for our ward's Christmas party that evening.  I took our kids to my parents' ward breakfast with Santa.  They enjoyed the pancakes, but were really just looking forward to sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what they wanted for Christmas.

Mr. One promptly smiled and told Santa exactly what he wanted.

Mr. Two got shy and tongue-tied and didn't say a word.

Mr. Three hopped right up onto Santa's lap with no trepidation, then took a confused look at Santa while he talked to him.  As soon as he got his little gift bag, he quickly hopped off and was done.  It was so cute!

Thanks to Grammy and Grandpa for inviting us.  It was a great morning.

While I went with my mom and sisters to the movies, Mike stayed home with the boys and put the lights up on the house and tree.  Now our home really feels Christmas-y.  All we have left is to decorate the tree with our ornaments (that's the plan for FHE tonight).  The boys loved spending time with Daddy.

That evening was our ward party.  They had planned a wonderful Night in Bethlehem for the ward, with family and neighbors welcome.  We were encouraged to dress up in Biblical attire.  It was so cold, we wore lots of layers under our tunics and robes.  (Can I just say, it's amazing what you can do with old bedsheets and bath robes?)  There were booths with middle eastern food to sample (hummus, pita bread, shish kabobs, dates, etc.) and activities for the kids (making clay pots and games), pictures with the Wise Men, a soup dinner and time for lots of mingling and wandering.  During the last hour, they had a group of a capella singers seranade us with Christmas songs, then a live Nativity play with special musical numbers and audience sing along's.  (I don't have pictures of our great costumes.  It was too cold and dark, and our kids too excited to explore.  Maybe we'll put them on later and take a family picture.)

There was a wonderful spirit of friendship and love for our Savior that night.  It was such a beautiful evening.  We even witnessed a little miracle:  All that day, it was cold and rainy.  We were thinking they might have to cancel our ward party with it being completely outdoors.  Just before the party started, the rain cleared up and it stayed dry.  As the final program was wrapping up, it started to drizzle, then began to rain heavily for the next hour.  It made for a very wet and cold clean up, but we were dry for the activity.  It's so comforting to know that Heavenly Father hears our prayers and gives us those little tender mercies we stand in need of.

Sunday was the annual Christmas Devotional by the First Presidency of our church.  It was beautiful as always, and really helped me forget about the stress of the season and remember the really important things of Christmas:  remembering the Savior, serving others, spending time with family.  You can watch the broadcast here if you missed it.

Now I need to pull out my copy of A Christmas Carol and find The Mansion...

I am looking forward to more Christmas fun with my family.  What are you looking forward to doing with yours?

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Christmas is Really About

We sincerely want to help our boys understand that Christmas is about so much more than presents and goodies.  We want them to know about Christ's birth and life and to reach out and care for others as He did and still does for us.

We were able to pick out an ornament off of the angel tree at school to help some of the needy families in our community.  Tonight we wrapped the gift and got it ready to drop off on Monday.  I hope they feel good inside knowing they could help someone have a nicer Christmas, even if it is just one small gift.
This past Monday for Family Home Evening, we spent time talking about the Nativity.  We have a Little People nativity set and a nativity magnet set that our boys can play with.  Mike had them find and hold the different pieces as he told them the story of Jesus' birth.  I think it was the perfect beginning to the Christmas season.

Last night, we found the Little People nativity set up just like this.  I noticed Mr. One playing with it last evening before bed, but didn't notice how he had left it.  I love how he placed all of the pieces to look at the baby Jesus.  Isn't that perfect?  I hope we can continue to have that spirit of worship and reverence in our home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

Are you ready for Christmas?  We're decorating the house, hoping to get the tree up soon, and I have visions of sugary sweets dancing in my head.

Our book advent is ready (you can see by this picture that Mr. Three couldn't wait for the fun to begin, so our first story is unwrapped).

Our scripture advent is hung and ready to use.

I'm going to attempt to post at least one fun activity we have done at our house to celebrate the season each day, so I hope you'll come back and visit!

Here's a little activity I did with my Mr. Two who is almost four years old.

You will need:

small seasonal items (I have a bunch of miniature ornaments and some holiday shaped buttons)
a paper and pen/pencil to make your letters and boxes

I chose six items that started with different letters to begin.  I wrote each letter above six boxes.

We went through the items, naming each one (I knew he wouldn't know holly without help).

He then named each item and placed them in the correct box.  He really seemed to like this activity, and it was fairly simple, so I decided to expand it.

Next, I gave him a pile of miniatures and let him go through to find other items that started with the six letters on his sheet.  This was a much bigger challenge, but he enjoyed finding more items to go in his boxes.

Hope your holidays are off to a great start!