Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Put a Lid On It

This past weekend, we had lots and lots of cold, stormy, rainy weather.  A pure delight for us Arizonans.  If only there was no school and other obligations to attend to, so that we could have indulged in a lazy day with pj's, hot cocoa, movies and blankets.  I was loving the rain, but my littles were sorely disappointed that play day at the park, or even in the yard, was cancelled.  What to do with two house-bound kiddos?

I had a bit of cooking to do during the day, and I tried to enlist their help.  They typically love helping to measure and dump things into the mixer.  This time, they lost interest quickly.  Mr. Three went and found some cars and motorcycles to run along the walls and floor while Mr. Four managed to pull out a opened container of oats to keep himself entertained.  Luckily, it was only about 1/4 full, so it didn't bother me too much when it quickly ended up spilled onto the kitchen floor.  Mr. Three was all too willing to help clean up (and by clean up I mean mostly spread around) the mess.  It was actually a nice activity to keep them busy while I finished up my dinner preparations.

After cleaning up the kitchen mess, I had a light bulb moment.  The oatmeal container would make a great toy.  Mr. Three and Mr. Four are really interested in sorting and pouring all sorts of items.  Good thing I have been saving(hoarding) the lids off of the squeeze baby food pouches for some time.  All I did was cut a rectangle in the oatmeal container lid just big enough to push a squeeze pouch lid through, popped the lid on, gave the boys the container of squeeze pouch lids and let them play.  Best rainy-day-free toy ever!

Besides filling the oatmeal canister with lids, they also poured the lids back and forth between the containers.  I had Mr. Three tell me the color names as he pushed each lid through the hole.  We counted lids and then discovered that they are stackable and make great towers to knock down (Mr. Four loved the destruction aspect.).

Earlier in the week, with the cub scouts, we had taken the lids and tried to flick them off the side of our hands into a box, as a simple gathering activity.  The scouts and my little boys loved this game.  Here's a video, if you want a (not so great) demonstration, with a little motorcycle action thrown in for interest.

I have also pinned some other great uses for these squeeze pouch lids that we may have to try soon.  So, if you have been saving (hoarding) these lids like me, here are several good reasons to keep them in your stash of useful stuff.  You're welcome!

It would be fun to make bugs on a sticky table.

I found these rolling truck and car toys.  This could be a fun cub scout activity as well as something for the preschool set.

This build a bug busy bag is on my to do list for the spring.

I love this color wheel matching game, and you could easily use the squeeze pouch lids in place of the wooden wheels.

In case that's not enough, a few more ideas:
use them to make patterns
count the lids
stack and compare towers
graph with them
make a batch of playdough and use the lids as stamps, monster eyes, wheels, etc.

Loads of rainy day (or any day) fun!

If you're still reading, here's the boys playing with their toy, adding their own great sound effects.  Anyone with little boys knows that sound effects are mandatory for pretty much any activity.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween 2013

The Mr.'s decided to go with a theme again this year for Halloween costumes.  I was all too happy to oblige.  You know I can't resist matching people...

I was also a bit relieved that they wanted to do something other than Star Wars.  This year, it was all about the ninjas, Lego Ninjago Ninjas, to be exact.

I drafted the patterns for their costumes using their jeans and a Sunday shirt as my pattern starters, and I have to say, they turned out pretty nice.  I used this tutorial for the pants, and just figured out the wrap top on my own.  I also made the shoulder armor and pinned them to the shirts so that the rest of the costume could be thrown in the wash.  Want to know the trick for the cool head covers?  All I did was buy a matching t shirt from the craft store and sewed the crest on the inside back of the tee, then you tie it on like this (scroll down the post for the picture how-to).  Super easy!  Thanks to our Kalanui cousins for tipping us off to this easy ninja mask trick a few years ago.

It was really hard to get a good pic of all of the boys standing together, they all wanted to pose with their sweet ninja moves and some of them just wanted to go dig in the dirt.  I think I got a few good shots, though.

 Who knew measuring spoons and squirt guns were ninja weapons of choice?

The Sunday before Halloween, we had our traditional spooky Halloween dinner with my family. 

On the menu was pepperoni-fried mushrooms (not Halloweenish, but the mushroom lovers were so happy), monster fingers (chicken strips), ghost mashed potatoes, brie and crackers (the knife added a little Halloween element), red jello with candy eyes, veggies and dip in a jack-o-lantern bell pepper, and pumpkin cookies and eyeball pudding (tapioca) for dessert.  We had to have our kool-aid in our dry ice-filled cauldron as well.  I love themed holiday dinners.  It is a fun tradition that I hope we never stop doing.

On Halloween night, we went trick or treating with my brother's three kiddos.  It was akin to herding cats to keep them together, let alone get them to stand still and look at the camera for a picture!  I think the action shot is quite fun, though.  It captures the real moment, you know, with two of them play fighting, one on the floor, one trying to run away...  We met up with all the family in town for pizza and candy, then down a few streets in my parents' neighborhood to trick or treat.  They had a blast.

Mr. Four was happy to join in, as long as it involved having a sucker in his mouth for the festivities.  Who can say no to that face?  I don't even want to think about how many suckers he ate that night...


Just for fun, here are two art projects that Mr. Two made in school that I thought would be easy to make at home, too.  The mummy is made with masking tape.  Why didn't I think of that?!  So clever.

It was another memory-and-candy-filled Halloween.  Now, on to Thanksgiving trimmings, gratitude and some fun fall projects to finish up!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Changes

Things have been changing around here, but I guess that all started in the late summer...

We moved into a new home the weekend before Labor Day.  We are in the same neighborhood, but we changed wards.  It was bittersweet to leave so many friends, we were there for almost 9 years.  I can't say that I wasn't a little grateful to have Mike released from the bishopric, however. :)  It was a blessing to have him serve, but we are excited to have him home on Sundays again.

Our new home has beautifully landscaped yards, front and back.  There is a square of dirt, perfect for a little garden.  I am unsure if we will get to plant one, because the boys have taken it over as their personal digging pit.  Oh the joys of mud and dirt for little boys!

In the midst of settling into a new place, we are trying to rent out our condo.  We have a few minor finishing touches, but the big stuff is done (like Mike rebuilding the master bath shower, from the studs out...) and still looking for someone to rent it.  So stressful!

On top of this, Mike is changing jobs today and that will be a new challenge for us, as well.

Oh, and did I mention I have started a little business of my own?  Yes, I have made a few custom little boy's ties and I am also making busy bags and quiet books.  I am excited and worried about balancing all of this.  Still working on getting a site set up for this and possibly starting an etsy shop...

Then Halloween is coming up and my boys have decided that they want to be Ninjago Ninjas, so yards and yards of colored cotton broadcloth, pleather and fabric paint, here I come!

Oh, life is full and busy and a little stressful, but it is good.  So good.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Last Full Day in D.C.

Our last full day in D.C. was full of museums and much lighter on the walking.  (Thank goodness for that, because all of our feet needed a rest after the massive amounts of walking we had done the days before!)  We took the Metro in to the Federal Triangle and paid a visit to the J.Edgar Hoover building.  We were lucky enough to get a tour inside and visit the closed to the public FBI museum, after a lot of security checks.  I mean a lot of security checks, no cameras allowed.  It was fascinating.  Thank you to our connection for making that possible. :)  Here we are giving our best "special agent" poses.  Don't we look intimidating?

We walked through the Butterfly Habitat Garden as we headed to the National Gallery of Art.  There were gorgeous flowers and butterflies aplenty.  A perfect little oasis to see some of nature's masterpieces before seeing some of the great man made masterpieces.

The only DaVinci in the Western Hemisphere.  So many interesting Renaissance works to see.

The boys were a little less than thrilled with all of the art.  Luckily there were lots of couches to lounge in and some boy-friendly works of art, like this huge depiction of David in the lion's den to draw them in.  Mr. Three and Mr. Four spent lots of time napping through this visit.

But for me, this was a "bucket list" moment.  To see works by Monet, VanGogh, Rembrandt, and many of the masters was a dream come true.  It was tempting to touch them, but rest assured, I had lots of self control, and if I lacked that, the many friendly, yet very present, museum guards definitely discourage you from any such attempt.

Our last museum stop was to the National Museum of Natural History.  This captured the boys' interests much better.  We saw dinosaur bones, mysterious and strange ocean creatures, a giant whale, mammoths, insects, mummies, and lots more.

The area we spent the most time in was the rocks and minerals section.  There were rooms filled with every rock and mineral imaginable:  from lava rocks and copper mines to the Hope Diamond.  We could have spent a lot more time here and in other parts of the museum, but sadly, it was closing time and we had to head home. 

 At Carla's apartment, we ended our day with quesadillas and a rousing game of Color Slap with the kids.  With an evening of laughs, full tummies and tired bodies, the boys drifted off to sleep while the adults chatted and packed up the bags for our return flight home the next morning.

This was truly a dream come true trip, and we are so grateful Carla helped make it possible.  It was hard to get up that next morning and get on a plane to head home.  Goodbye beautiful architecture, rich history around every corner, cool breezes and green, green landscapes.  I truly hope we have the chance to explore D.C. again, when the kids are older.  For the present, we will be happy with the memories and can relive the fun through our pictures. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday in North Carolina


After a great big breakfast at the hotel, we ventured first to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brother's National Memorial.  We wandered the area where the Orville and Wilbur took their first flights, toured the visitor's center, and hiked the Big Kill Devil Hill, where the brothers conducted their flying experiments.  The name of the hill sounds much more intimidating than it really was. 


Unless of course you are Mr. Two and you insist on taking your own "short cut" down the hill, opposite the way the rest of the family is going, and when you discover that you can no longer see your family, you wail and run the whole (longer) way around the hill until you find them again. 

Good times.  No need to panic too much about a lost child when you can certainly hear him coming.  I sure do love that stubborn boy!  Tantrums aside, the views were awesome, and the boys loved seeing the replica gliders and dreaming about flight (and I do mean all of the boys ;)).

Our next stop was the beach.  We grabbed a Subway lunch and headed to the shore.  I was really excited to experience the Atlantic Ocean. 

We heard that the east coast beaches were different than the west coast.  The water warmer, the waves gentler.  Well, either the people who claim this are fibbers or we caught a strange day, because that water was cold!  The cold water aside, it was a beautiful day at the beach.  The tall grasses off the shoreline waving in the breeze, the pale colored, stilted beach houses, the warm sun, the small crowds of beach goers, just enough to feel like you had friendly company, but lots of room to stretch out and explore. 

The boys loved playing in the water and sand, building sandcastles, running along the shore, jumping in the waves.  It was strange to have the sun set behind us as we gazed onto the ocean, being so used to the setting sun on the ocean horizon.  The sunrise must be amazing.

We just missed getting to the Bodie Lighthouse in time for a tour, but we still got some great pictures.  I have never seen a lighthouse in person before.  It was probably a good thing we didn't try and get a tour in because all of the littles, except for Mr. One, were fast asleep by the time we got there.

After soaking up the sunshine and ocean air, and a quick stop for salt water taffy, we packed up and headed back towards D.C..  Salt Water taffy must be a big thing there because we saw signs for it everywhere.  Naturally, we had to get some to go, along with some chocolate sea shells.  Next, our intent was to get some good Carolina barbeque for dinner.  Unfortunately, the local places with good reviews were closed when we go there.  There wasn't even a chain barbeque place!  We were famished, so we stopped at McDonalds.  The kids were thrilled, the adults too tired to argue.  I guess we just needed one more thing left uncrossed on our list to entice us to venture back again someday!  A day full of sun, walking, swimming and adventure, and tummies full of food made for slumbering kids on the way home.  A few "short cuts" later, we enjoyed some extra scenery on the roads, and we were finally back in D.C. well past our intended 10:00ish estimated time of arrival.  It was a very full day indeed!  Good thing our last full day in D.C. would involve significantly less walking.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Our D.C. Weekend

We decided to tour Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, on Saturday.  The weather was very hot and humid, but the estate was so beautiful. 

The boys especially loved the "ha ha wall."  A low wall was built to keep the animals away from the main house, but to not obstruct the view.  It was called this because visitors, not seeing the low wall, might stumble and fall over the wall, causing those in the know to laugh.  There was lots to see and learn on the grounds and in the nearby museum. 

We met "Martha Washington" who was delightful as she told stories about her life, then interacted with the kids and let us take pictures.  Mr. Two and Mr. Four were not interested in that photo op. 

The kids got an adventure map with puzzles to solve as they toured the estate.  When they finished, they took it to the museum, where they had their puzzles checked and were then given a Mount Vernon penny souvenir.

Oh, and just in case you wondered if I still unconsciously match my kids on occasion, I even do it on vacation.  Can you spot Mr. Four?

After Mount Vernon, we had a pizza dinner, then headed to Gravelly Point Park in Arlington, Virginia.  It is close by the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, next to the Potomac River.  It is a small park, but near the runway, so the planes seem like they are coming in way too close to you as you watch them fly in.  There is also a great view of the city and you can watch the sailboats on the river.  The boys loved watching the planes come in the first few times, but the noise was a little too loud to stay very long.  They had fun running around in the open space. 

We couldn't resist trying to take a funny picture with the planes.  We had to beg the boys to do it, as they didn't like the noise and the perceived closeness of the planes to their heads...

On Sunday, we went to church in the morning and drove to the Washington D.C. temple.  We wandered the beautiful grounds and admired the temple, then headed into the visitor's center for a little while.  We were fortunate to be there when they had a temporary exhibit of paintings by an artist named Rose Datoc Dall, called "Jesus Once was a Little Child."  It was a series depicting the Savior's early years and they were so very touching to view.  You can see a video of the exhibition documentary here.  I especially loved her painting called "Under the Canopy of Heaven" with Mary sheltering the baby Jesus and olive branches framing the two.  Her work is breathtaking.  It made me want to paint.

After a yummy kalamata lemon chicken with orzo dinner with homemade strawberry shortcake (yum!), we drove to Elizabeth City, North Carolina and stayed at a hotel overnight.  You would have thought the hotel was the fun part of the trip for the boys.  They were just giddy about staying in a room with a tv, water cups and big beds.  I think everyone rested fairly well, which was good because Monday was a day full of adventure.  No time for napping!