Thursday, November 29, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Or rather...he's already arrived!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Santa made his grand entrance at the annual Midland Santa Holiday Parade.

We found out about the parade just a couple days before (being new in town, we rely a lot on word of mouth for such events that we shouldn't miss).  It turned out that the parade route was just up the street from us, and since Brad was out of town for the day (at the Michigan/Iowa game in Ann Arbor), the boys and I bundled up and walked the two short blocks to find a curbside view for the big event.

This parade was really something special.  I can't say we've taken the boys to a parade with outdoor temps in the mid 30s, so that made the experience all the more unique for us.  But the parade itself was huge.  So many entries (the usual businesses and politicians advertising themselves, as well as school bands and churches, etc, etc, etc) and so. much. candy.  Seriously.  We walked away with more candy from the parade than we did on Halloween night.  The beauty of it all, though (for me anyway) was that it was a holiday parade.  Christmas Christmas and more Christmas!  I love Christmas!  It was a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season!  

Completely elated when he caught his "favorite candy ever!"

The parade has a theme each year, and this year it was "A Hollywood Holiday."  There were quite a few floats carrying this theme, but this one was definitely my favorite. :)

We happened to sit by a classmate of Drew's.  It was fun to see Drew hang with a buddy outside of the classroom.

Our favorite celebrity sighting.

The grand finale...

Santa Claus!
And Drew did notice that his reindeer were fake.  A quick explanation that the real reindeer were in training for the big night seemed to suffice. 

OH!  And when one particularly musical vehicle passed by, Reed caught the jitter bug and put on his dancing shoes.  I wish I would've had our video camera, but this slideshow captures it pretty accurately.  Enjoy. :)

And here's a bit of trivia for you...did you know that Santa's house is right here in Midland?!?!

It sure is.

We can't wait to pay him a visit.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

{Woo hoo!  Well, I've found a solution to my previous problem (I'm a regular MacGyver!) but it is no doubt just a temporary band-aid.  Something new and different may have to happen with the ol' blog here pretty soon.  Oh golly, just add it to the "to do" list!}  But we'll take it while we can....moving along....

For us, the Thanksgiving season kicked off immediately after Halloween, when we began recording our blessings, one by one, as a family.  Just like last year, we celebrated our thanks by writing down on a paper leaf what we are thankful for.  This year, though, we didn't create a thankful tree, but rather a thankful garland (the new board and batten on my kitchen wall is serving it's purpose quite nicely).

Each night at dinner, we recorded what we were most thankful for that day.  It was pretty cute as Reed was the one that kept us on track about it, asking each night "What are you thankful for, Mommy?  What are you thankful for, Dad?"  We can tell how much school has come to mean to Drew, as each night he would name a different classmate that he was thankful for.  And Reed.  Oh Reed.  He's just a comedian, but also very smart.  He remembers the little things (grapes, trees, cereal) along with what we would consider more notable (his church, his family, and a few friends thrown in for good measure).  And, of course, we do have so much to be thankful for.  An early resolution, perhaps: to remember our blessings.  To name them.  To give thanks to God.  Every day.

Among those blessings are our families, of course.  Traveling for Thanksgiving is going to be of significant difficulty for us, now that we are 10 and 12 hours away from our hometowns and Drew is in school.  Driving such a distance in the span of a four-day weekend doesn't exactly thrill us, especially when we will be taking more time in just one short month to make the rounds at Christmas.  So, it was decided that we'd stay put.  And lucky us, much like in 2010, my parents were able to schedule a trip to our home to celebrate Thanksgiving here!

And so, our week was full, but pretty low-key.  Mom and Dad arrived on Sunday night and were here until Friday morning.  Drew had school and Brad worked Monday through Wednesday, so that left Reed here with my parents and me during the bulk of the day.  We did a few preparations for Thursday's meal, and ran a few errands, but other than that, Reed has his pick of play buddies and play play play we did!

Here was our week, in photos:

Game play was Reed's activity of choice this week, it seemed.  He learned how to play a few new ones, and kept Grammy and Papa busy!

Drew had limited time with his grandparents, so that amped up the excitement for the air hockey tournament he and Papa had!  (Just ignore those moving boxes, please.  We're not talking about that.  Thank you.)

And, as no major holiday or vacation is complete without it, we made our traditional trip to the Urgent Care.  Reed woke on Sunday morning with a slight cough that intensified throughout the week.  A lot of coughing, a lot of snot, a lot of sleepless nights on the couch for him and me, that by Wednesday, enough was enough.  So, off to the UC to be diagnosed with an ear infection and given instructions on how to ease the drainage and coughing.  He also woke on Monday morning with the appearance of his annual herpes outbreak on his chin.  Thankfully, leftover creams from the last few outbreaks is taking care of it.  Good golly.

Thanksgiving Thursday!
Our Thanksgiving meal was delicious!  The usual fare with family to share it with!  And beautiful, beautiful weather!

Brad spent one afternoon early in the week cleaning up the last of our leaves.  We have one huge maple tree in the backyard and it seemed to take forever for it's leaves to drop.  But once they did, we had quite the pile for leaf jumping!  The boys took advantage Thursday afternoon, before the weather turned cold and snow appeared.

Black Friday shopping wasn't too high on my list of things to do, but I gotta admit it was a little enticing knowing that Brad could go with me because my parents were here to be with the boys.  And since stores are now opening as early as Thursday morning (ridiculous), Brad and I found our way out for Walmart's 8pm opening.

Oh Walmart.  You are not my favorite, but your deals are hard to beat.
It was our only stop for the night, and we were successful in what we went there for.  And I did head out again later Friday morning to spend some free money I had (those save $10 on a $10 purchase coupons are hard to just throw away!).

My parents left early Friday morning to head back home, and by the time I walked out the door to run those few errands, I was greeted with snow sprinkles.  Not enough to leave a trace, but enough to want to catch a few on our mittens.

A quick run through the driveway with excitement for our first snowfall before heading out for an afternoon showing of The Lorax

Our library shows free movies during school breaks, and this was just what we needed to get out of the house and do something different.  I took the boys with me while Brad stayed home to watch football.  I took a shopping break in the morning; I guess it's only fair that he gets a football break. :)

That little bit of snowfall definitely put me in the mood to get going with the Christmas decorating.  But more than that...finally, after 10 years of marriage, we have upgraded to an actual adult-sized Christmas tree!  For the past several years, we've had a 4-foot tree that has served it's purpose well, but we have definitely outgrown it with size of our family and the number of ornaments we have.  Each year I tell Brad I'm going to pick up a new tree during the after Christmas clearance, but, obviously, that hasn't happened.  So, after a chance conversation with some new friends at church, they have generously gifted a 7 1/2 foot tree to us and we I am beyond thrilled about it!  It's a beautiful tree, and fits perfectly in our new home!

I brought up our boxes of Christmas decor and the boys and I started on hanging our ornaments. 

{We'll show it off soon...we still need to find a topper for it.  We've never had a tree topper before!}

And Christmas tree decorating couldn't have come soon enough, as we woke up on Sunday morning to this...

So, our Thanksgiving was lovely.

And here's to a very merry and bright (and white!) Christmas!

A Note

Ok, so, here I am, really wanting to blog and post updates on several things, and my stinkin' blog host is being, well, a stinker.  Apparently I've used up all of my free photo space and in order to get any more space, I have to purchase it.  I'd like to avoid that, so I'm attempting to figure out how to delete some unnecessary photos off of my Google account without deleting any that have appeared on the blog.  Needless to say, after three attempts to figure it out, I'm a bit frustrated.  Grr.....  Might be time to call in my tech team...


Regularly scheduled blogging will resume.... eventually.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fall Conference

Last week, Brad and I met with Drew's teacher, Mrs. Faust, for his fall conference.  And at the risk of sounding like "that mom" I'm gonna go ahead and tell ya'll what a fantastic kid we have.

We were given a really, really, really good report. :)

Mrs. Faust's opening statement to us was, "You have a really delightful son."

*insert super obnoxious, proud mama grin here*

She reminisced about how after the first week and a half of school, she was afraid that she'd never hear Drew's voice.  He was so super shy and unsure of everything that was going on, he remained quiet and timid for the first several days.  But after he'd adjusted to the routine of his school day, and learned what to expect and when to expect it, he began to flourish.  He is talking and being social and raising his hand to answer questions; he's playing and participating and working really hard.

For the fall quarter, Drew's class is concentrating on Learning Behaviors and Language Arts, and these were the two areas he was evaluated on for his report card.  In kindergarten, the students are graded on an "Achieving/Developing/Not Yet" scale.  In a nutshell, Drew is "achieving" in all categories except two.  He is "developing" in "tries new activites" {we weren't at all surprised by this; Drew definitely likes what he likes, and he likes what he's good at} and "able to hear individual sounds in words."  Mrs. Faust said that when he is reading to her, he'll look at her and say "I don't know that word" and when she works with him to sound it out, he'll be a bit unwilling and say "I don't know it."  We talked with her about how one of his hiccups is that he's afraid of being wrong, so he's afraid to try.  Something to work on this year, and most likely for his lifetime to come. :)

He's functioning well in the classroom.  He thrives on routine, and his teacher tells us he keeps her on her toes. :)  His ability to read is progressing, and I must admit that this is my favorite thing so far about school.  Drew is learning to read!  I love it!

Here's the thing, though: we know Drew is a smart kid.  He just is.  He's bright and catches on quickly and has a memory like an elephant.  We knew he would do well academically at school.  My biggest worry going into formal education was the social aspect of school.  Who would Drew find as friends?  How would he get along with other personalities?  He is shy and sensitive.  Would he be made fun of or teased or called out on an embarrassing moment?  Just regular mom worries, I'm sure.  So among all of the academic accolades his teacher was reviewing with us, and yes, we were so glad and proud to hear all of that, this is what totally made our day...

"Drew is nice to everyone."

Mrs. Faust relayed to us that Drew knows the name of every classmate.  Not many others do.  Drew is nice to and talks with everyone.  Drew takes no issue with who he has to work with or sit by.  He mentions the same friends everyday of who he plays with at school, but Mrs. Faust told us that he will play with, and have a good time, with everyone.  One thing that I have noticed when I've taken Drew to school is that so many of his classmates will say "hi" to him, even kids he doesn't mention as ones he plays with.  Mrs. Faust did label him as the "Moral Police" in the classroom.  He knows what is right and wrong, good and bad, and he'll remind his classmates when they seem to forget.  This is alright for kindergarteners, but that may be a behavior he'll want to quit before he gets too much older. :)  {And why does he seem to forget this at home?!?}

This - this - makes us the proudest parents ever.


Drew brings home any number of papers on a daily basis.  His worksheets will reflect everything from number and letter recognition to writing exercises, reading and beginning math to units on the five senses and social studies pamphlets.  He does bring home some art, that we display in our "gallery" in the kitchen, but there certainly hasn't been as much of this as there was in preschool.  These are a few of my favorite papers from this fall...   


Sight word worksheet.

Handwriting sample (the names of some of his classmates).

 Numbers (writing by memory).

Spanish colors.

Art gallery in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Personal Shopper

With only Reed at home now during the day, running errands has become a much easier feat.  After a small incident late in the summer at the grocery store when upon returning home I swore I wouldn't take Reed to the stores with me again until he was 13...he has now become my own little shopping buddy.  And on some days, it can be quite the marathon shopping (it's just easier to go out one day to tackle all the errands instead of going out multiple times during the week).  He is usually agreeable to riding in the cart, and if I accurately calculate my spacing from the shelves on one side and from oncoming customers on the other, Reed's hand can't reach to swipe the products off the shelves when he insists he must touch everything.  (Why must kids do that?!?!)  

And when I said " an easier feat" I meant because there's only one kid to supervise, not two!

And when the errands get long and tired and boring, I can always count on a few suitable distractions to help us both out.

He doesn't even know they require money for the full entertainment package!  Two points for Mama!

On one particular day, while picking up a few things at Target, my phone rang, and while I was distracted, Reed went about filling our cart.

Whatever he thought we needed that was within reaching distance for him, he grabbed and slid into the cart. 

We were in the snack aisle, no less, and as he pushed his way down the aisle, he was looking for just the right treats.  It was pretty cute when he picked one up, shook his head, and then put it back on the shelf.  Kid likes what he likes, I guess.  

By the time I was off the phone, he had worked his way up one aisle and down the other, successfully filling our cart with 12-15 unwanted and unneeded items.  But for graciously agreeing to put them all back, I let him pick two to keep.

Cuz I'm cool like that.

Or more likely, cuz he's cute like that.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkins, Costumes & Halloween Parties

Sit back and relax...this is a long one!

Halloween is really not a big deal holiday to me.  It's probably my least favorite.  However, I have gotten a bit more "into" it since having kids.  I don't care for the witches and goblins and gore and scare, but rather for the cutesy kind of Halloween.  And the candy doesn't hurt, either. :)

So along with hitting the pumpkin patch every year as a family tradition, we also tackle carving pumpkins as a part of our fall holiday celebration.  Even though the neighborhood pumpkin no-good-doers decided to attack our front porch over the weekend, we didn't let that stop us from spending eight more dollars so that the boys could watch me do all the work.

 At least this year they stuck by my side and saw through the entire process.  As opposed to last year.

My husband is wonderfully sweet, humoring me by picking up our new pumpkins so that we'd have them to carve.  But I know that he is really shaking his head inside because it's all kind of silly - I sit there and do the work while the boys look on - or, in Drew's case, he's telling me everything I'm doing wrong.  Is it really worth it?  And I really thought about that, because some of things I like to do with the boys as "tradition" really is a lot of work for what can sometimes end up being frustrating and stressful and really no fun after all.  So I thought to myself, "Why even bother?"

And I remembered this quote that I saw a while back...

"Do not kiss your children so they will kiss you back, but so they will kiss their children, and their children's children."

While "we" were carving, I joked to Drew that one day he'd look back on these sorts of things and say, "Man, I have the coolest mom ever!"

And while that would be pretty sweet if that's the way he felt (I won't hold my breath), it reminded me of the above quote, and reinforced for me the reason why I do these things... for my boys, for when they're dads, for their children and my grandchildren.

{Who knew you could turn a pumpkin carving blog post into such sap???} 

After a short time, we had ourselves a happy mouse and an angry bird.
And I'm happy to report that they're still in one piece on the front step.


Credit must go to Reed for the boys' Halloween costume idea.  I starting asking a few weeks ago what the boys would like to be.  I knew that whatever it was they chose, we would need time to either find it to buy it, or pull together the materials for us to make it.  When I asked Reed what he wanted to be for Halloween, he replied, "A pirate!"  And when I prodded a little more, it was revealed that he was thinking of Jake and the Neverland Pirates of Disney Channel fame.

This show is definitely at the top of the TV favorites list for both boys, and after a bit of discussion, and Drew, too, wanting to jump on board, it was decided that the Neverland crew would be it for Halloween.  But now, who will be who?  Drew just couldn't decide between Jake and Peter Pan.  Although Peter Pan only appears on the show for special episodes, he was especially drawn to him for some reason, but he eventually decided to be Jake.  Reed, too, was encouraged to choose whomever he wanted, but I won't deny that I didn't try to steer him towards Cubby, Jake's right hand man (I am a sucker for themes --- remember Halloween last year and in 2010?)  He did really want to be Cubby because Cubby carries a map (not sure what the deal is with the map, but Reed really really really liked the idea of having one) although for a while he thought being Jake would be pretty great, too.  I finally put a deadline on the boys' decision making, as I had to get started on pulling these costumes together, so Jake and Cubby it was!

So here's the lowdown on how I whipped the costumes together.  I'm doing this primarily for myself, as in the future I might enjoy knowing how I pull off some of these crazy things that I decide to do!

After looking through my own stash of fabric, I spent a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon running errands to three different stores to gather all the supplies I'd need for the costumes.  Once I had everything on hand, I started to whip these babies together.

I found a free online pattern for a vest HERE, and it worked perfectly.  I had to alter the pattern a bit for both vests, although primarily for Drew's.  His needed to be a bit larger than what the pattern is, and it needed a collar.  I used this tutorial as a reference to add on the collar, and while it certainly didn't end up perfect, I kept reminding my perfectionistic self that this vest will probably never see the light of day after Halloween.  I used felt for both vests, and I used bias tape around the edges.  I also purchased the large yellow buttons for both.

The other major part of the costumes were the shoes and boots.  We own neither brown boots or brown shoes for the boys, and while it would have been perfectly OK to just let them wear their tennis shoes (or green froggy boots, in Reed's case)...what fun is that?!?!  So, using this as a guide, I set out to make shoe covers (using felt and elastic) that mimic'd the boys' respective characters.  They didn't turn out too shabby, if I do say so myself!

The Salvation Army store supplied the white shirts for the boys.  Originally a long sleeve top, I simply snipped the sleeves from Reed's shirt.  And Drew's was a plain t-shirt that I made look like Jake's by cutting notches into the sleeves and making a "V" at the neck, then stringing an old black lanyard string through to make the "X".  Reed already had red shorts that I very loosely sewed an orange piece of fabric to, and I picked up Drew's blue pants at Kohls.  He needs them for the season, anyway.  I borrowed a pair of white leggings from a friend's daughter for Reed.  Cubby wears long socks, but with the colder weather we had, I wanted to be sure more of Reed's legs were covered.  With a bit of blue painter's tape wrapped around the leggings, I think we pulled it off.

I had the blue and red fabric for their bandanas, I just had to sew them appropriately to fit their heads.  And I also picked up a small bit of gray fabric at the fabric store to make Drew's belt.  We had a sword on hand, thanks to cousin Addy's birthday party earlier this summer.  I painted it brown so to resemble a wooden sword like Jake's.  But the map!  Cubby's map that Reed was just so crazy about!  I had completed everything for the boys' costumes on Tuesday morning, and it suddenly dawned on me we had nothing for a map!  The one thing Reed was so crazy about regarding his costume...He wanted to carry that stinkin' map!  I Googled "Cubby's map" and found this image, so I quickly attempted to replicate it using some felt I had on hand.  Whew!  That was a close one!

So I think that's about it.

Here you have them... Jake and Cubby!

And because I am the coolest mom ever, the boys convinced me that I should be Izzy, the girl pirate.  I happily obliged, not really because the boys wanted me to, but because they wouldn't shush up about it already!  A little pink fabric for the bandana and a little bag of sugar covered in yellow fabric for my pixie dust, and I was set.  Drew was disappointed I didn't have the purple pants or red boots.  I told him it was enough I was sportin' this bandana all night long!

 Brad was already at church getting ready for the evening's festivities, so this was the best picture I got of the three of us. :)

Oh, and as for Brad's costume...

there you have it.


I feel so lucky that I am able to make it into Drew's classroom on a weekly basis to help out, but also to participate in his class parties.  On Wednesday afternoon his classroom turned into party central as a host of other moms and dads brought Halloween fun to a bunch of kindergarteners!  Organized entirely by parents, the party lasted for just over an hour and included all kinds of fun activities and foods.  The kids rotated through stations, doing crafts, getting tattoos, eating snacks, and doing activities, all Halloween themed, of course.  It was fun, and a great way for Drew to celebrate with his friends.

 He wasn't so crazy about sticking his hand in the black box to feel "intestines" and "eyeballs".  But he did it and got a little container of Play-Doh as a prize. :)

 Getting tattoos.

Snack time!

Decorating a pumpkin.

Drew's school party lasted until the end of the school day, which gave us just enough time to get home to recuperate before heading to church for the next party.  Because Halloween landed on a Wednesday, which is when we have regularly scheduled church programs, the Family Ministries Pastor (Brad, ahem) along with some wonderful volunteers pulled together our own version of Truck-or-Treat.  But because the weather had been threatening for rain all day, we pulled the party indoors.  We have an awesome children's ministry area in the basement of our church, which provided the perfect location for trick-or-treating and party games.  There were four doors to trick-or-treat at, and then more prizes and candy could be won at all of the games in the large center room.

Not to toot my hubby's horn...but I will.  It was really great. :)

Drew really wanted to go trick-or-treating door to door, but I convinced him that heading out to a couple other churches that were doing Trunk-or-Treat would be better.  It didn't end up raining that night, but it was quite chilly as the winds were blowing pretty fierce, and with Brad sticking around at church to do his job, it was just me. So the boys and I headed out to two other church parking lots.  Our neighbors had invited us to their church, where we found about 16 cars packed with candy.  Then we headed to a second church which had about 24 cars loaded with Halloween goodies.  After we finished up there, I think Drew was convinced that we'd had enough.  Even Reed said, "Mama, we have enough candy now."

Yep, I'd say so!

Home for our pajamas, hot chocolate and one piece of candy before hitting the hay.

Until next year!