Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Advent & Christmas Countdown

Christmas is coming! What a wonderful, beautiful, incredible time of year.  It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I love to do a countdown for Christmas so that I can be intentional about doing all the things we love to do as a family.  Create memories, have slow-down moments, build anticipation, celebrate community and family, and stop to slow down and think about the real reason for the season.

This year we just bought this book.  It's beautiful and thoughtful, and awesome.
I want to start the tradition of the Jesse tree which has us reading certain scriptures every night with the kids after dinner, reading this really cool story bible, and hanging up a little ornament with a symbol for them to remember the real reason for the season.  If I had time, I would make these ornaments (so cute) but we'll have to make due with some printouts this year.  

And, as usual, I am currently filling up these boxes:
Inside will be the Jesse tree ornament, another little ornament for our tree which we can add every day, an activity for that day and the elements to make that activity happen.

My hope is that we can do as many of these things in community as possible and that the children will love crafting, baking, giving, and making together.

Advent activities:
  1. Decorating the house for Christmas.  On goes the music, up goes the d├ęcor.
  2. Setting up their nativity scene to play with, outside Christmas light!
  3. Ornament making day with friends.  Thinking of these and some other kid-friendly ones. 
  4. Cinnamon ornaments!  I've always wanted to make these.
  5. Snow day.  Sensory bin and snowman fingerprint (and footprint) painting. Possibly attending our Church's Making Spirit's Bright event.
  6. Cutting down our Christmas tree with friends, and attending the Christmas parade in Maple Ridge (or going to Science world to celebrate Jason's birthday).
  7. Decorate our Christmas tree, dinner by candle and christmas-tree light, and make some gluten free chex mex for while we do it.
  8. Christmas tree crafts: One for me, one for them. If only I had time for these but I AM hoping to make a new wreath like this.
  9. Some special projects for Daddy's birthday today!
  10. Send some fun packages to family far away and do some play-doh christmas tree decorating (only with a bit more glitter and glam).
  11. Make homemade marshmallows and pair with hot chocolate mixes to deliver to some dear friends.
  12. Party day! Daytime dance party to christmas music, Jason's work christmas party.
  13. Can't wait to take our kids to the 4Catz studio to paint a family work of art together. Splatter painting! Silas is going to love this. Also going to let the boys have some bathtime fun with a winter bath kinda like this.
  14. Snowman pancakes and our Life group christmas party. 
  15. Decorate and stamp and mail christmas cards and go ice skating at the Langley Events Centre's Winter Wonderland. 
  16. Cookie baking for neighbors part 1 (cause having a busy 6 month old underfoot will make baking take ten times longer). I love the ones we chose last year so might make them all again:
  17. Cookie making day part 2 and delivery. 
  18. Random act of kindness. Hoping to candy-cane bomb a parking lot in our community or pay for someone's coffee. The boys have their preschool play in the evening! 
  19. Go visit Potter’s store or Port Kells Nursery - so beautiful (and free) at Christmas. Snowman pizza and Christmas movie in jammies tonight 
  20. Snowman pancakes for breakfast, and skating or the Stanley park Christmas train in the evening. 
  21. More random acts of kindness and sledding/tubing!
  22. Have a fire and read stories by it. 
  23. Hot chocolates and drive around looking at Christmas lights. Hoping to do a christmas light scavenger hunt this year like this
  24. Christmas Eve (maybe our traditional gourmetting this year?)
  25. Christmas Day!

It may sound like a lot, but it's really what we would already do at some point- but this way all my planning is done and we can just enjoy a new activity every day.  

Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season.  If you want to join us in any of these activities, let us know!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frog Birthday

Party season has arrived!  With all our family members' birthdays falling in winter months it's planning time! But, I love it.  I love decorating, organizing, shopping, being creative, you know...all of it.

This year for Toby, he decided on a frog themed party.  Ever since his epic time frog catchin' at his aunt Cheryl and Uncle Joe's place this summer, and his even more epic fall into the pond water from the rocks, he's had frogs on his mind.  Once the theme of frogs was decided, it was hard to NOT think of fun things to do with frogs.

Some fun details for those of you who ever need ideas for a frog party:

I like to keep my parties unstructured...partly because I don't love organizing a bunch of hyperactive kids.  I instead like to set up 'stations' that they can roam between.  The activities this time around were SO fun and were all things I knew Toby would enjoy.

1. Frog launcher
Where can you go wrong with this?  A bunch of little boys?  A catapult made from daddy? Stuffed and beanie frogs to launch and catch in a bucket?  Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of action shots but let me tell you, there WAS action.  There were frogs flying everywhere- this launcher was awesome!  The kids could stomp on it or hit it with their hand.  Many times adults were hit in the head with frogs, but they were all good sports. The best part?  We now have an awesome catapult to play with in the months ahead.

2. Pond Sensory Bin
Because Toby loves sensory bins and because of his awesome frog catching time this summer, I made him a pond sensory bin.  I dyed a bunch of rice with blue colouring (and vinegar) and also mixed in some white rice.  There were rocks and sticks that we had collected on a walk this week, some pine tree branches, some gems, and a TON of frogs. A few butterflies over-top, some lily pads, and a few nets for the kids and wow, was this ever a hit.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that Toby spent MOST of the party at this station.  
3. Froggie Craft
I tried to make the craft as simple and self-directed as possible so kids could do most of it themselves.  It was glue-less and we used simple things like double stick tape and a hole puncher to make this work.  The best part?  The frog's tongue...I imagine tongue-fights happening in this household in the next few days.

4. Lily Pad Lagoon
(Named from part of the cottage that we visited this summer with Jason's extended family).  Thanks to Oma, we had a ton of origami jumping frogs (and some plastic ones) that kids could sit and try and land on the lily pads.  Fewer people played with this but it was still a fun activity (and again, more frogs for us to play with in weeks to come!).

5. Books
I always love to have some books hanging around.  We often get a bunch from the library but this time I bought some from the thrift store.  Toby already loved rifling through them and I loved watching families cuddle up with their kids, even for a few minutes, with a book.
I planned the party for 3-5 so that we could avoid major meal times, so the snacks were pretty easu.  I kept it 'simple' in that I just did nachos, some fruit, and then some fun themed food:

1. Cupcakes!
Seriously, so easy!  Just green frosting with a bit of sprinkles on it, marshmallows cut in half with chocolate chips shoved in, and a red gel smile.  The only complicated part was trying to make sure there was a cupcake for everyone.  With all the food intolerances it gets a bit tricky (there were gluten free, dairy free, regular etc)

2. Froggy eggs, fly dip, and froggy apples

(fly dip was a bean dip made for the taco chips)
The apple frogs were just quartered frogs that I had doused in lemon juice, cut up grapes for legs and feet, and marshmallows for eyes.  A little finicky but otherwise simple.

I thought I kept the decor pretty simple...just some streamers and balloons, coloured table cloths etc.  I borrowed a bunch of frogs to put around, got a few from thrift stores, and Toby's Oma had brought some frog bath toys I put around the room.  I also cut up a bunch of little lily pads of various sizes to put on table tops for frogs or frog candies to sit up on. 

Toby's birthday banner was made with lily pads which was fun, although if I were really particular, I should have written "hoppy birthday toby" but, you know, who would have noticed but me?!

Goody Bags:
What's a party without goodie bags?
Homemade green play-doh (I should have put glitter in, makes it that much more fun!), some frog candies, frog stickers, bouncy balls, and ta-da!

Some action shots:
Excited for his party day!
All hands in the sensory bin
Fiona got some snuggles too!
Loved collecting the jewels too
Cake time!  
Me, re-lighting his candles for him...a friend's son came running in, at JUST the right moment and blew out Toby's candle for him so he had a 're-do.'  It was pretty hilarious but Toby didn't think so.

We had a wonderful day!  Toby got to wear his jammies all morning (which he loves) and had his special breakfast of his choice.  He got to open his presents from us and got to watch a veggie tales video (a special treat). Then it was off to the park for a beautiful time in the sunshine with the family and he got to stop to get his FAVOURITE treat - a fresh, plain bun from Cobs bread.  Then it was lunch and nap and party time! He also got to go out to a restaurant with Nana and Papa for french fries after!  He said at the end "I just want to do this day over again."  

And that's why I do this...I think everyone should have a day every year where they feel truly loved, truly special, and truly celebrated.

For other party and kid ideas see:
Lego birthday
Baking birthday
Christmas countdown 
Monkey birthday
Train birthday

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My 3-Year-Old

Oh wow do I love this boy.  My little Toby turns 3 this weekend.  And when I think of him, I think of:
-red rubber boots
-hopping, jumping, spinning, running
-catchin frogs
-singing songs- always
-noticing the little things like lovely flowers, rainbows, and animals
-cuddles on the couch with a book
-endless hours of pushing cars, trains and motorbikes
-bombing down hills on his strider bike
-snacks - my raisin and hummus fiend
-whispered comments
-animated expressions
-hilarious comic relief
-emphatic "NO!"
-stuff-collector (we always find piles of random stuff in his bed- including windshield scrapers, rocks, turkey basters, trains, stuffed animals, my ear plugs, books, random rubber found on roadways, bouncy balls and any interesting thing he finds)
-early mornings, this kid gets up at the crack of dawn!
-coffee loving
-bed wrestling
-squeezy hugs 

What a blessing he is to our family!  His smile, his sparkly blue eyes and his incredible fun-loving charm adds so much LIFE to our family.

Thank you God for our healthy, handsome son.  What a joy he is!  We love you Toby!

(he looks like a little teenager here) 

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