Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Countdown Continued

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but that's how things seem to go around here.  One week I'll have 50 pictures, and the next I'll have 2.  Here's our projects so far:

Day 6: Make Christmas Trees for Great-Grandparents
This was somewhat successful - I had gotten everything ready ahead of time, and Henry just needed to decorate.  I forget what came up, but we did this a day late and had to hurry after his nap to have them ready to go for the Great-Grandpas.  We got the two done that we needed to, but nowhere near as many as I planned. Before we glued the tree on the tube, I put some waxed paper around the bottom with a rubberband and we filled the trunks with pieces of candy.

Day 7: Visit Great-Grandpas

This went okay, considering that active little boys go haywire as soon as they're in a small confined room.  But the great-grandpas enjoyed seeing him (and us) and I know they don't mind the sudden goofiness as much as his mom does. ;)

Day 8: Buy a Gift to Give Away

I happened to be going shopping with my mom and Rachel on this day, so I thought it was perfect timing.  But I picked out the stuff for our Angel Tree gift (clothes for a girl), and I don't enjoy shopping and forgot (and then didn't put in the extra effort when I remembered) to have him pick something out to drop off at ATLAS.

Day 9: Have Grandparents Over for Supper

This was a huge hit, and I meant to take a picture of everyone together but forgot once we were all sitting by the table.  Henry thought it was just awesome to have ALL of his grandparents together and to himself.  We all had a good time.

Day 10: Make Salt-Dough Ornaments
Basically we played with play dough.  Sticky play dough.   It would have been better if it weren't so sticky, because playing with play dough is fun.  We rolled the dough into balls and then squished them to make snowmen.  Mine was 3 high with the circles getting smaller.  Henry's was 6 high with random sizes.  I liked his better, because no rules = more fun.  No pictures because my hands were too sticky. :)

Day 11: Visit Great-Grandma H

We were snowed in and definitely not driving out of town.  We played outside in the snow and then trekked up the street in the wagon to our cookie exchange.  I had finally bought a saucer this year, but a sled meant for pulling would have been better since the wagon doesn't work that great in the snow.

Day 12: Make and Decorate Cut-out Cookies
This was fun because Dad did it with us, but all we did was cut-out and bake the cookies.  I got out all the Christmas cookie cutter, and then the "boys" came.  Both thought the truck should be a Christmas shape, and I think we had more trucks than anything, and I had to work on both of them to share. ;)

The dough was sticky which I could handle, but the cookies didn't even taste that good.  So I need a new recipe.  And even if I had everything ready to go, Henry wouldn't have had the attention to cut-out the cookies and decorate them in one afternoon/evening anyway.

Day 13: Visit the Nursing Home and Hand out Extra Trees

This hasn't happened yet.  His Christmas party at daycare was that afternoon, and we brought away some cookie platters before that.  Plus we didn't have any extra Christmas trees.

Day 14: Make a Gingerbread House
We did this for family night this week, and it was fun but will hopefully get better over the years!  I had tried to get the house cut out and baked and assembled so it was ready to be decorated without falling apart.  I made the royal icing and put it together right before we had supper, and one of my support cans tipped a little too far and dented our roof.

When we sat down to decorate, Henry sat there with the bowl of Mike & Ikes in front of him eating for about 5 minutes.  Dad decorated his side of the roof perfectly, and Henry & I just did whatever.  It was hard enough convincing him to put the candy on the roof instead of in his mouth!  And we had to vacuum up the sprinkles that I kept hearing fall on the floor anytime Henry moved.

As I was finishing cleaning up, I could hear pieces falling off, and when we got up the next morning Henry saw the totally collapsed house and said, "Uh oh!  I broke it!"  He still claims he broke it even though I told him it fell apart while we were sleeping.

Day 15: Visit Great-Grandma VM

Henry had fun looking at her toolbox she got out to show him, and got to play with some of his (2nd?) cousins that Grandma was watching and lots of fun toys.

Day 16: Make Treats for Friends
My plans for the treats for his friends changed from candy trains to monster magnets.  He helped me "write" his friends names on the tags, but other than that there wasn't much he could do.  Thankfully I have a cool glue gun, or my fingers would be blistered!

More to come next week!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Activities, December 1-5

December 1: Put up the Christmas Tree and Decorations

We had fun putting up the tree, listening to Mannheim Steamroller and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows.  Henry had about 6 ornaments hanging from the one branch, so I did have to a little re-arranging. :)  I had a church supper to help at on Wednesday, so rather than make Henry miss his nap to get the tree up, we did this on Thursday. Dad ended up taking the afternoon off and got to hang out with us too.

Both fell asleep on the couch afterward.

December 2:  Decorate Wrapping Paper
December 3:  Make Christmas Finger Jello
Because of the delay in putting the tree up, we did both of these activities on Friday.  We made red and green finger jello and cut it into Christmas shapes, although Henry kept calling the cross was a "plus."  We also decorated kraft paper with paint, glue, and glitter.  There was less than half the jar of white glitter left, a little more than half of blue, and there wasn't that much surface area to cover!

December 4:  Make Supper and Bring Some Away

I had supper made, all ready to go, and Henry refused to go for a car ride.  Since these would be surprise drop-offs, I had planned chili soup and cinnamon rolls - something that could easily be froze or saved for the next day, so I didn't push it.  I wasn't going to bring it away by myself just to get it done, and I wasn't going to force Henry to go and turn it into a miserable activity.  Instead, we brought them away as a family after church today and left the surprises by back doors for them to come home to.

December 5:  Make Star Cookies with Mom
Sometimes Henry just gets excited about taking off the numbers, acts excited about the activity I tell him, and then goes off to play trucks again.  At least today he knew what was involved and went straight to the kitchen table to push the chair across the kitchen.

He always has fun mixing, but he also has a short attention span and got in trouble for opening the oven door (even though it wasn't on yet), and disappeared right before what I thought was the fun stuff.  He did show back up to roll a few cookies in sugar, tried to take over my job of scooping balls and started to treat it like play dough, pushed a few stars in the hot cookies and then disappeared again.

Along with a few stars. 

I know I can't expect "perfect" activities if I want to have fun, so I remind myself: flexibility is key!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Fun and My Giving Update

I can't say I was a complete success with the 30 Day Giving Challenge.  I had fun trying to come up with new ways to give and it pushed me to do some things I may have normally claimed were "too much work."

I managed a "Ring and Run" (actually a Ding and Drive) with an anonymous gift; I made cards for Operation Write Home and proceeded to use the cards to give to others; I left a treat for our mailman which he must not have realized was for him and left it there; and other miscellaneous things to help out neighbors and family that had more or less success.

About halfway through the month I slacked off.  "Recording" my giving started to feel pointless as I realized a lot of what I was doing was stuff that I would normally be doing anyway.  But what I took from it was not the benefit of "giving" for 30 days straight, but some encouragement to occasionally go above and beyond what I normally do, even if it's out of my comfort zone.  (I must say it's kind of uncomfortable ringing a doorbell and rushing to your car, trying not to look suspicious, but not knowing what you'll do if they come to the door before you can get away.)

On to Christmas!

I've been wanting a Christmas tradition that would add some fun, but couldn't quite describe what I wanted.  Stockings on Christmas Eve; Christmas breakfast and presents together as a family before church and the busyness of the day; it's some nice time together as a family but it still wasn't quite what I was hoping for.  But I didn't know what I was hoping for.

And then I discovered/thought of/combined from a million sources a form of an advent calendar combined with a Christmas countdown.  But I didn't want candy or trinkets.

So we have 25 days of activities for our family to do.  And it fits perfectly with what I was hoping to accomplish.  A tradition that makes this a season of fun and giving and not just a whole lot of commercial hoopla over one day of "gimme gimme" gift receiving.

I made bottle cap magnets with the numbers 1-25, cut out squares of Christmas paper (that I had to print from my digital supplies), and wrote our activities on the back.  My original plan was to use a cookie sheet since our fridge isn't magnetic.  Unfortunately my pans are airbake and also not magnetic, there weren't any at the second hand store when I looked, and I didn't feel like buying a magnetic board right now.  So I used my mini muffin tin, flipped it over and stuck them to the back.  Although I may need to clear if off or change one of my baking items I had planned for Christmas...

I explained the calendar to Henry yesterday and he went, "Oh, yaay!" and clapped.  I'm not sure he completely understands what we're doing as he's responded this way to random things throughout the past few weeks, but I know he'll enjoy it.  And I'm excited too, especially since I usually put our tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and this year I've had to wait!

Anyway, check back as I'm excited about this and will be posting regular updates on our activities.  Not sure I'll post each day, but I'll do at least a summary each week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen Tour

 I do have an excuse for abandoning my blog for a year.

We undertook another major house project beginning in the middle of December 2009.  It involved our living room, stairway, kitchen, main bath, back entry, and making a laundry room in the basement.  Unfortunately, I can't report the project as completed yet.


But the kitchen was the biggest aspect, and it is about 95% complete.  I can cook and bake, so I'm not complaining.

For about 5 months this was my "kitchen:"

Our back family room was about the only functioning room on our main floor (the office was functional, but it became a store-all and was sealed off part of the time).  We ate there, I "cooked" there, we lived there, and it was impossible to keep clean.  I lugged the dish pan through the house, up the stairs, and washed dishes in our upstairs tub every night.  

I got through it with a decent attitude by reminding myself that within a year I would barely remember those days (and yes, I knew from experience).
This is the "before" and I quick snapped this picture as I was in the process of packing up.  You can see the dining room table, and on the other side of the far wall was a "formal" dining room.  It sat empty except for a stray desk and bookshelf and looked out of place behind the living room.

This shows the layout a little better - the cabinet space was decent, but there was almost no counter space between the sink, cooktop, and microwave.

Post demolition - at least most of it.  The bathroom was next, so that wall on the left side was soon open.  No more formal dining room = a lot more space!

 A view from the other direction - close to the same view as the before picture.


A clean slate - the part I love!  It means the end is (sort-of) in sight, and adding color and making it feel like a home again is a great feeling.


Unloading the cabinets - this is only part.  There's more you can't see around the steps, some in the dining room, and some to the left of me.  We started wondering if they were all going to fit!

Cabinets going in - this is probably where I got really excited and anxious for the finish.  Unfortunately we still had countertops, appliances, plumbing, and flooring to go.

We bumped out the cabinet for the kitchen sink to add some detail to a long run of cabinets, and I love the "feet" Doug put on it - it looks more like furniture than a cabinet!

My new kitchen taken from almost the exact same spot as the before picture - quite a big difference!

That is my baking corner.  There will eventually be a bench under the window to cover that storage.  My mixer is on a pop up shelf, and I have another little sink over there.  I love it!  The three-tier countertop was a compromise - Doug wanted the raised bar look, and I didn't want to be constantly lifting kids up and down onto bar stools, so we have a table-height counter that wraps around the corner.

Someday the details will be finished, I'll have carpet in the living room, and the other projects will be finished.  Someday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to Play

 At 7:30 this morning, instead of eating breakfast before going to work, I was outside playing in the snow with Henry making snowballs.
We've also been painting the basement, and Henry has had fun 'helping.'  (Those are all "H's" by the way.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Real Deal

Reason # 5,452 why I use real butter:

I had some leftover margarine after helping with a church supper (where cost was the biggest factor), and I needed to make a double batch of cookies for the auction tomorrow night.  People bake with it all the time, so I thought, "What could go wrong?"  I'll give you one guess as to which one was made with real butter.

And I don't have the time or supplies for a redo. :(

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Day Giving Challenge

Before I get into the main point of this post, I feel the need to point out that it is November 3 and as I drove up the driveway after work this morning, my first thought was, "The lawn should be mowed again."  It's long because of the new grass, but how is it still green?  Crazy.

I found this challenge about a month or so ago and planned on participating, but October flew by and November was here before I knew it.  I don't think I did anything on Monday, but I'll make up for it later.

I like the idea of a month of giving before the Christmas season, and it ties into the "advent calendar" I'm planning for December, so I'm excited to give a little more than I usually do. I may or may not post what I do each day, depending on how I feel about telling people what I did that day.

Yesterday I committed to a donation for Kaitlyn's Fund, a local organization that supports adoptive families. So I'll be making cookies for the next year. :) It's not the baking that held me back from committing until almost the last minute, but it's hard for me to commit to things like this.  In the back of my mind I think, "What if something comes up?"  or  "What if they don't like my cookies?"  Nonsense excuses.  So overcoming my fear of commitment is how I gave yesterday.

As far as family night, it was pretty tame this week.  We walked to a soup supper at a local church, then walked to another local church to cast our votes, with Henry riding on Dad's (tired) shoulders pretty much the whole way. 

Henry and I baked "Dad-sized" chocolate chip cookies, even though there was going to be pie at the soup supper.  They are delicious.  I'll try to post the recipe soon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Balls, Legos, and a Little Fixing

My original plan for last week's family night was to play some (easy) games.
I got out the games during the afternoon and let Henry examine them before we even tried to play.
The checkerboard was useless - he just wanted to build a tower.  
Chutes and Ladders showed promise - until he found the spinner again and didn't stop spinning it for about 5 minutes.
We're not ready for "rule" games yet.
 So we went outside to play.  We played with the bat and balls, and after I reminded Henry to keep his eyes on the ball, he was hitting them half-way across the yard!  It was hilarious to see how intently he focused on the ball before swinging.
Doug got a workout after we got the giant tennis ball out - once Henry saw him kick it up high, that's all he wanted Dad to do for the next 20 minutes.
This weekend we put sheetrock up in the basement for the toy/train/farm room.  I don't know who's more excited about it - Doug or Henry.
Please ignore the high-water pants I subjected my son to.
And here's proof that he will be an expert with tools in the near future.
This Tuesday we hauled out the legos.  
That is definitely Doug's area of expertise.  
I build a box and called it a garage.
Doug built trucks.
Henry was kind enough to play with both.
Henry also walked on Dad's back. There may have been a little jumping.
On AND off of Dad's back.
I never did hear if his back felt better or worse after Henry "fixed" it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life As We Know It

Last night wasn't really family night, so we're going to do it tonight.  Doug called at 5:45 saying he still had one more delivery (he's usually home by 5:40), so Henry and I played memory and held off with supper until 6:30, then made our Not-so-Molten Chocolate cakes and enjoyed them with ice cream.

And got Every. Last. Drop. 

Henry pushed his truck around while bouncing like a frog, parked his trucks all in a row under the toe-kick of the cabinets, and then we went up to take a shower just as Dad got home at 7:30.  Not exactly the night I had planned, but we'll make it up tonight.

 Some of our highlights from this week were making an A for Alligator, singing the alphabet song 10 times, and reading "There's an Alligator Under My Bed" by Mercer Mayer about 5 times.  We've had it from the library before and by now Henry can "read" about half of it with me.  I got the idea from here, and hopefully we'll make it though the alphabet in the next few months.
 We watched the garbage truck come pick up (yet another) dumpster from our driveway.
 Dad moved his tools from his shop to our basement so he can actually get some use out of them again, and along with them came the wagon for the old Structo truck Henry discovered in our attic a few weeks ago.  I think Doug had grand plans of refinishing them, but this little boy doesn't care, as long as it's a truck.  It's current function is storage - Henry loves to shove all of his other cars and trucks in the "wagon."
And I just need to point out that Henry's as enthusiastic about salad as he is ice cream. Makes his momma proud.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our New Tradition

I don't know how many times in the past years I've thought about or talked about our family doing something together.  We spend a lot of time together, but even though we may be in the same room, we often aren't doing anything together, and the TV is usually on.

While I will never convince Doug that unplugging the TV for a month, or even a week, would be a fun experiment, I really want us to spend some time together while really being together.  Starting this week, we have designated Tuesday night as "Family Night" - after supper is cleaned up, the next hour is for us to have fun being together.

Yesterday, Henry and I made Snickerdoodles during the afternoon.  (Look at his little tongue - shaking them around in the cinnamon and sugar takes so much concentration!)  We also each ate one, but mine was warm from the oven, and his was raw and quickly shoved in his mouth.

We also collected leaves and pressed them between waxed paper.  He loved collecting the leaves and had so many he could hardly hold onto them all, but was fascinated with our "picture" for about 25 seconds.  Oh well.

After supper, we headed outside and Henry got to ride to the park in his wagon - which doesn't happen near often enough for him.  There we quickly tried out every piece of equipment on the playground, played with a basketball, got a "bucking bronco" ride from Dad on the bee, and rolled down a hill and got dizzy and covered in leaves.  On the way home, Dad tried riding down the hill with Henry but didn't make it very far and still had to pull him most of the way home.  Inside, we finally got to enjoy the cookies, and for as much as I like to bake (and as much as I like cookies), I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I think this is the very first time I have ever had Snickerdoodles.