Monday, November 28, 2011

North Pole Breakfast

The boys woke up this morning to a very special surprise.

 Someone new had come to visit...

...and brought with him a very delicious breakfast.

Do you see him?

Meet Bingo.


I was first introduced to the Elf on the Shelf by my cousin, Megan, who began the tradition with her family last year.  Since then, I have seen a ton of ideas online involving this little sneaky guy, and I really wanted to begin this tradition with our boys.

The idea is this:
This little elf visits us every day, leading up to Christmas.  Every day he observes the boys' behavior, and then every night, he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa whether the boys have been naughty or nice.  He then returns to our home, and the boys need to find him when they wake in the morning as each day he'll be in a new spot.  There are two things that excite me about this little elf: 1) the idea that he just might cause some improvements in the boys' behavior, and 2) taking part in the mischief he himself will get into while the boys are asleep.  Stay tuned for that. :)

And for those interested in all the details...
I purchased The Elf set (doll and book) at Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago, and have since started scouring the internet (read: Pinterest) for Elf ideas.  I found this breakfast idea, and after returning home from Iowa for Thanksgiving, threw our breakfast together in one night.  With a quick run to the Dollar Tree and Target, I had everything I needed to pull together our own North Pole Breakfast!  

Snowman and reindeer donuts.

Small buckets full of candy, and a canister of hot cocoa mix.

 Santa mugs with marshmallows inside, for the hot cocoa.

 Peppermint striped cups with crazy straws for the boys, along with a small gift for each of the boys.

When the boys ventured into the dining room for breakfast and discovered all of this, Drew said, "What's this stuff doing here?"

Our Elf had left a card for the boys, which read:

Reed was thrilled by all of it.  Admittingly, it could have been all the candy.
I think Drew was a little confused---or maybe concerned---at first, but started to be convinced by all of it when we began brainstorming names for our new friend.

Some suggestions: Relph (the Elf), Herbert, Wally, Snazzy, Pluto, Clyde, Michael, Max, Fred, George.

We finally agreed on Bingo.

Catchy, right?

The boys soon dug into all the breakfast treats, and no one walked away with a stomach ache.

I did hear the boys mention Bingo's name a few times today, in reference to him "knowing" all that the boys are doing.

We'll see if they remember tomorrow. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving - In a Nutshell

There are a ton of things that totally stink about being unemployed.

There are, however, some definite benefits --- like being able to extend Thanksgiving break from two days to five!

With Drew off of school all week long, and having no other major obligations to speak of, we were able to head out of town on Tuesday to enjoy a nice, long Thanksgiving break with family.

Our activities included (in a nutshell)...

Tuesday - Arrived in Des Moines around 4:30, and met up with Brad's parents {and our niece, Lauren} at Perkins for dinner.  We then headed over to a local high school, where we met Sheryl to watch Janae, another niece, play on her varsity girls basketball team.

Wednesday - Spent the day playing at Brent & Esther's, with Lewis, Lauren, and Alison.  The boys were flooded with attention from their cousins, which allowed Brad and I to just sit back and relax (although the girls insisted I change Reed's dirty diapers).  Brad worked on a puzzle and I worked on a project for the boys.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day - A HUGE meal at Glenda & Rob's with Brad's entire family.  The food was delicious, followed by a family game of football in the backyard.  There was a lot of game playing and football watching, and let's not kid ourselves - a lot of dessert eating!  After tucking in the boys (they were exhausted!), Brad and I headed out for some Black Friday shopping.  We hit up Toys 'R Us, Walmart, and Younkers before making it back home, and into bed, by 1am.

Friday - Another day to relax!  A bit more shopping in the morning for me, both online and in the stores, and more football watching for the guys.  More playing for the little guys, and an all around wonderful day with family.

Saturday - Up early to head to northeast Iowa for the Gushee family gathering.  More food and more fun and more family...this is my kind of holiday!  Back in the van to travel home, arriving at home and nestled in bed by 10:30pm.

So incredibly thankful for so many things.

Family definitely tops the list.


*deep breath*

Christmas we come!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wish Lists

In honor of Black Friday, I thought I'd include the boys' wish lists on our blog.  I've seen a few other blogs include their kids' Christmas lists, and I thought it was a good idea in the interest of memory keeping.  How fun to look back in a few years to see what the boys were interested in and what they enjoyed when they were younger.

Disclaimer: For all those that purchase gifts for my children --- please be mindful that this is a comprehensive list, and that it will probably be better to stick with the lists we give you personally. :)

Drew's asking for...
* Cars 2 the Movie
* Die cast Cars the Movie cars
* Disneyland Adventures XBOX 360 Kinect game
* books - Step Into Reading/Beginning Reader
* games - Monopoly Junior, Aggravation
* IA Hawkeyes hat
* scooter
* Cars the Movie racetrack (they have several, and I can longer find the one that I wanted to
* sled
* clothes - jeans, nicer pants (khaki's, cord's), nicer tops - size 5/6
* preschool workbooks

Reed's asking for...
* play rug for cars (found at IKEA)
* The Beginners Bible
* Imaginext Toy Story 3 Tri-County Landfill
* Geotrax Radiator Springs set
* Movies - The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., Kung Fu Panda 2
* Playdoh
* books
* sled
* clothes - nicer tops - size 3T

For both boys...
Teach Me Time clock 

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We Are Thankful

During the month of November, we've been {attempting to} concentrate on our blessings. We have much to be thankful for, and I wanted to take some time this month to be intentional about helping the boys recognize and name their blessings.  In comes our Thankful Tree.  I've seen several different versions of gratitude projects online, and when I came across this one, I thought it would be the most workable for our family.  It was easy to put together - the boys and I walked up the street one afternoon to collect a few branches, and then I arranged them in a jar.  We knocked out some leaves on my Cricut, and put it all on the dining room table.  My intent was to have each of us write on our leaves at dinner, and it usually happened, although not always.

Reed always said "I thank you for....Grammy & Papa!"  He's still a tish on the young side for this project, although being thankful for Grammy & Papa is a good start!  He would sometimes go on to list other members of our family, and then usually repeat whatever Drew said.

Drew was pretty good at this exercise, and enjoyed writing on his leaves.  Here are a few of his that are my favorites:

Please know that we are very thankful for each and every one of you, who have continued to support, love, encourage and pray for us.  We love you, and we celebrate Thanksgiving today with you on our minds and in our hearts.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Picture of the Day, Week 46

 Sunday {11.13.11}
I still clip coupons to use what I can to save pennies.  Now, I have a helper. :)

 Monday {11.14.11}
Unless he's just woken up, Reed isn't much of a snuggler, so I grab any cuddles I can get!

 Tuesday {11.15.11}
We started working on Christmas lists tonight, and Drew could go through the catalog and write everything he sees on his list.  I'm not sure much of it is realistic, but it was a good exercise in writing.  I love preschool handwriting. :)

 Wednesday {11.16.11}
A new game: animal racetrack bowling.
Self-entertainment at it's best.

 Thursday {11.17.11}
Our thankful tree.  {Almost} every night at dinner we try to talk about our day and what we have to be thankful for.  We write them on leaves, and then hang them on our tree.  A simple way to remember that there is always something to be thankful for...and that we have a lot to be thankful for!

 Friday {11.18.11}

Saturday {11.19.11}
The first snowfall of the year found us making tracks through the freshly fallen snow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The First Snowfall

Alternately titled: Minnesota Reality Check

When the forecast showed snow for this week, I was quite excited.  
I've missed Minnesota winters.  
Central Illinois winters having nothing on Minnesota. 
When it began snowing today, I was happy.
Smiling, screaming, jumping.
Otherwise drawing unnecessary and embarrassing attention to myself.
As a result, the boys became excited, too.
So they wanted to go outside.
And although there's just a dusting of snow on ground, we donned snow gear from head to toe.
Because it's Minnesota, people.
And it was cold outside

 I forgot how cold the winter is.  And we're not even near the normal below zero temps and windchills!  Thank goodness for large windows that peer out into the fenced in backyard.  Boys outside playing = happy.  Mom supervising from inside the house = warm and happy!

Snack and hot cocoa upon their return indoors.

Now I'm off to purchase some cuddleduds and snow boots for myself.

Welcome home, Lesley!

Practicing Generosity

I want my boys to behave.  I want them to listen.  I want them to do well in school.  I want them to be a good friend.

But more than that, I want them to be generous.  I want them to see how much they have, and how little so many others have.  I want them to know they can make a difference, they can do the right thing, they can be the light to what is a dark and depressing world to so many others.

In order to teach generosity, we must practice generosity.  And I'm not gonna's not always easy.  Sometimes it's easier than other times, depending on what is asked of me or what someone else needs me to sacrifice in order to bring joy to another's life.  It's hard to think beyond myself, and it's often times harder to teach such a virtue to the boys.

They don't get it yet.  At their age, they are still very self-centered, and that's okay.  They need to be children, and not forced to reason beyond their age.  But they also need exposure, in a non-scary, and non-guilt inducing way, that not everyone is as blessed as we are.  So we participated in something this year we hadn't yet - Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan's Purse.  It's an organization and Christmas operation that collects shoeboxes full of goodies to send to poor and disadvantaged children throughout the world.  For most, these shoeboxes will be their only present this year for Christmas.

We attempted to explain to the boys what we were going to do, and why.  They didn't really get it, and that's okay.  Drew asked a couple good questions (like, "Why won't they get presents?" and "Where do they live?") but he also reverted back to, "But I want this stuff."

We watched this video before heading out to the dollar store to pick up a few things.  The boys did okay, but were enthralled with all the goodies in the store and, as expected, were difficult to redirect to picking items out for the shoebox.  Again, that's totally okay.  They're kids.  They did what they're supposed to do.

But I hope that they slowly will begin to get it.  That there is need in our world, and that they can help.  We are blessed, so we bless others.  It really is as simple as that.

 Examining the contents of our box.

 Ready to pack the box.

 The boys chose to pack a shoebox for a boy, aged 2-4.
We packed a variety of toys, art supplies, and personal hygiene needs.

 Making sure everything works before we pack it up. :)

And getting it all ready.

{The boys also included two Christmas pictures that they colored, and we'll register our box online so we can find out exactly where it ends up.}

Friday, November 18, 2011

Where Do They Learn This Stuff???

There are these occasions in parenthood when your kids do something, and you think to yourself, "Where did he learn that?  How does he know about that?"  It's not necessarily naughty things, or adult things, or things of that nature.  It's just odd, weird, funny stuff that they somehow "know" by virtue of being a kid.

It's like it's built in to their toddler DNA.

In our house, it's the classic "I need a drink" bedtime stalling technique.

We'd have a few battles with Reed at bedtime.  Ever since we moved him into his toddler bed, he's played games with us at naptime and at bedtime.  It goes in stages, from bad to worse to better to making us believe the problem is fixed to ha-ha fooled you bad again.  And the stalling ranges from getting out of bed a million times to not getting into bed in the first place to crying and screaming (from both Reed and me).

Most recently, Reed has pulled out the ol' "I need a drink" line.  And this is what leads me to believe that there is a little devil sitting on his shoulder, taunting him.  And me.  Because seriously, there is nowhere else this kid would've learned this from.  Drew never did this.  As a matter of fact, we never have had bedtime issues with Drew.  So Reed has never heard it in our house.  So unless some sneaky little kid - or adult - has told my son to stall at bedtime using this classic kid trick...

Such a little stinker.

But a smart little stinker.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Conferences at 5C's

Last Friday, Brad and I met with Drew's teacher, Mrs. Tramp, for his fall conference.  It was less of a progress report kind of conference, and more of a get to know you and your child conference.  Nonetheless, we did learn a few things about Drew in the classroom, and were very encouraged by what we heard.

First, though, let me follow up on this post.  The day after I wrote about Drew praying for a new friend at school, he found one!  When I went to pick him up, he joyfully told me, "MOM!  I found a friend!!"  I said, "Oh honey, that's great!  What's his name?" to which Drew turned around and asked the boy sitting next to him, "What's your name?" :)  Turns out his name is Brodie, and shortly after, he found another friend in Carter.  We hear about them a lot, and from what I can tell, they're pretty good buds.  And Drew has also told me that they aren't the naughty boys in his class.  Two thumbs up on picking your friends, little man!

{Which reminds me - remember Gage?  Drew's best buddy from Hobby Horse last year?  I sent his mom a message near the beginning of the school year, asking how Gage was doing.  She wrote: "Gage is doing ok, but missing Drew. The first couple days of school I asked who he played with.. his response was "if Drew's not there, I'm not playing with ANYONE!"  Awwww...}

Ok, so, back to business.  Here's what we heard from Mrs. Tramp...

Drew is really starting to open up.  He's not as shy or as unsure when school first started, and his silly side is starting to expose itself.

Mrs. Tramp describes Drew as being really peer-oriented; he would be perfectly okay if there were no teachers in the classroom. {We were delighted to hear this, as this was one of our greatest concerns when it came to adjusting to preschool, in general, but definitely this year as he started at a new school.}

It makes sense, then, when she says that Drew can play with anyone.  He likes his little group of buddies, but he can be found playing with anyone in his class.

Drew's nervousness comes out when the school day is a little out of order; like when there is a field trip or special event.  When he readjusts to the "new thing" he's back to his normal self and is okay.

Mrs. Tramp also had some artwork of Drew's to show us.


and a drawing Drew did of himself, a la last year.

So, in sum, a really great report.  And we're really glad to have gotten a little insight scoop into his days at school.  Drew doesn't share much beyond what he ate for snack. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Picture of the Day, Week 45

 Sunday {11.6.11}
One thing that keeps me positive, and a bit sane, during the current time is planning for and thinking about our next home.  I have no idea where it will be or what it will look like, but I've found such inspiration and ideas on Pinterest that make me excited to think about the possibilities.  Mom and I hit a big sale at JoAnn's today and I picked out a few fabrics for use in the future.  Makes me weirdly happy. :)

 Monday {11.7.11}
We love games around here, and the boys are into all of Grammy and Papa's games right now.  It's pretty odd to play the same games with my boys that I played with my parents when I was a kid.

 Tuesday {11.8.11}
Current favorite show.  For the boys, and maybe for us, too. :)

 Wednesday {11.9.11}
I taught Drew the ol' plug-your-nose-and-close-your-eyes to eat those foods that you'd rather not.  Guess what?  Totally worked.

 Thursday {11.10.11}
I love that my boys love books.  This morning they were "reading," flipping through the pages and mumbling words to themselves.

 Friday {11.11.11}
Brad and I had Drew's fall conference this morning.  I'll blog more about it later, but this was the family picture he drew.  Yeah, I know.  Someone's missing.  I hope there isn't a hidden meaning here.  But cute, nonetheless!
Saturday {11.12.11}
Still Brad's favorite.  Still fully stocked.  Still really, really good.

{By the way, when I was uploading these pictures, I found two from last week that I had forgotten I had on my phone.  So I fixed a few things up from last week (specifically Wednesday and Thursday), and it's not so boring anymore.  Go check it out. :) }

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jumping for Joy

Didn't I tell you that fall in Minnesota is beautiful???  And this is just on my parents' street.  I'm not sure if it's because I haven't lived at home since 1998 and the trees have matured in that time, or if I just never noticed before, but wow.  I was totally struck by the beauty of those leaves.  *sigh*

And then the not-so-beautiful part of fall --- having to rake all of those leaves after they fall!  While our kids are still too small to really be much help in such chores as raking, at least they try, and they have a good time doing so!

{And don't be fooled...the big kid got in on the action, too.}

I have to give a big shout-out to our nephew, Avery.  If it weren't for him, and his enthusiasm for being outdoors and helping do "grown-up" things, I don't think Drew would've fallen for the "lets-go-rake-leaves-it'll-be-fun" proposal Brad had given him.  Avery was all "YEAH!" so Drew was all "YEAH!"  Sometimes peer pressure isn't all bad.

Good-bye, beautiful autumn.  Until next time...