Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Activites--2011 (and a few other resources)

I'm putting the finishing touches on my list of activities for the year!  Some are repeats of previous years, some are new.  I usually try to do ornament activities toward the beginning of the month so we can enjoy them on our tree all of December.  This year we have a solid week of "nativity-inspired" activities.  I'm still working through the last week.  There is a possibility the kids and I will be back in Lincoln as early as the 17th (kind of depends on when Josh's Texas sister is able to get time off from work), and we thought rather than drive us all back and forth and back and forth again we would just set up house. ;o)  If that is the case you can assume I'll have some rather simple ideas planned (that will travel well!!).  I've included links where appropriate (if you're interested).

1. Mini Canvas Ornament Paintings, like these
2. Glitter Ball Ornaments, like these
3. Peppermint Day--involving the reading of The Legend of the Candy Cane, peppermint play-dough, and some minty treats, last year's here
4. Embroidery Hoop Ornaments, like these
5.  Make/Decorate Christmas Cards
6.  Jingle Bell Bracelets (or necklaces)
7. Christmas Ornament Collage/Painting, like these
8.  Cookie Baking Day
9. Cookie Decorating Extravaganza
10. Gingerbread Day--involving the reading of Jan Brett's "gingerbread books," decorating some gingerbread houses, perhaps some gingerbread men to decorate, or maybe we'll just make gingerbread muffins, last year's here
11. Craft a Toilet Paper Tube Nativity, printables found here
12. "Shepherd and Sheep" picture, read The Shepherd's Christmas Story
13.  Angel Picture, read A Glorious Angel Show
14.  Decorate a Wise Man's Gift, read 'Twas the Night (The Nativity Story)
15.  Make a Nativity Scene Picture, read Christ is Born
16. Family Movie Night, watch The Nativity Story
17.  Nativity Styled "Gingerbread" Scene, like this (or "drive back to Lincoln with Mommy!!") ;o)
18.  Nativity Muffin Tin Meal, last year's here
19.  Yet to be determined . . .
20.  Yet to be determined . . .
21.  Yet to be determined . . .
22. Celebrate Owen's 2nd Birthday!  I'm leaning towards a penguin theme . . .
23.  Christmas Lights Tour in our Pajamas (possibly Christmas on my side of the family)
24.  Christmas Eve Church Service, open gifts from Grandpa/Grandma
25.  "Happy Birthday Jesus" Breakfast Party, and open gifts from Daddy/Mommy

Among other Christmas ideas, this is our Christmas book for this year--

I have to say, I LOVE it!! I read through it quickly upon its arrival and by the time I finished I had  goosebumps!  Each page tells of how creation got ready for the birth of the Savior.  Being someone with a fondness for nature, I was just struck with that idea.  The last line read "Heaven's Son sleeping under the stars that he made. " Is that not an amazing thought to ponder?  This one comes highly recommended!

We'll also be tackling the Jesse Tree again.  In years past we have used Ann Voskamp's free one from her blog at A Holy Experience.  This year we'll be using this book--

After ordering it I discovered this ebook Truth in the Tinsel just came out, and I'm half tempted to get it too!!  I think it would be great for the younger set!  It's pretty inexpensive and you can head here to check that out.

I'm also awaiting this adorable little advent calendar from Family Christian Stores.  Every year I tell myself I'm going to make something like it, and when I saw this one (which I got for $15) I decided I probably couldn't make one for that (and it saved me a whole bunch of time too). ;o)  I figure I can slip the little paper that reveals our activity for the day in the pocket with the "softie" of the day.  It should also pack up well if we end up back in Lincoln for an extended stay.  All important things to consider!

Still in need of more ideas?  You can check my pinterest board! I'm always pinning more than I'll be able to accomplish, so help yourself! ;o)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Thanksgiving Weekend--in review

We're back after a nice long weekend visiting friends and family in Lincoln!
Hardly any pictures were taken, but as always, lots of good memories made.
The kids woke up bright and early Thanksgiving morning and as soon as it was light enough got busy in the pile of leaves that was awaiting them just outside the door.
We enjoyed Thanksgiving day with Josh's family and lots of tasty food.  His mom always sets her table so beautifully for each season/holiday--it's always fun to see what she has combined--
And the day after Thanksgiving we were celebrating with my side of the family.  My youngest brother offered to host this year.  I wish I had pictures of his house!!  He has spent the last several years (four, maybe five??) remodeling his home.  Truly when he got started on this project I wished he would just burn it down.  But room by room he stripped the house down to its bare studs and rebuilt it from that point.  He has done an AMAZING job! The inside is so bright and welcoming, and we all enjoyed eating, watching the game, and celebrating my mom's birthday there .  The kids spent most of their time outside, jumping bales, swinging on the tire swing, and cracking walnuts with a hammer. 
(Four goons performing on the bales) ;o)

And now we're back!  We picked up our Christmas tree on the way home at the Menards in Kearney (I always like a Fraser Fir and they have good prices).  Living on the edge, we hurriedly picked one that was already bundled up and tied her down tight to the top of the van.  And then we said a quick prayer that--
1. It would not fly off on the interstate and hit somebody behind us
2.  When we unwrapped it, most of the branches we expected it to have would be there.
And I'm happy to say our tree made the journey intact, and for sight-unseen it's not too shabby.
*deep sigh of relief*
Currently, my home is in varying states of Christmas decorating and unpacking-ness.  I've started my online Christmas shopping and have a feeling the mailman will hate me in a few short weeks.  I'm also planning out our daily December activities.  I find all of this hard to do when it is 62 degrees outside. Not that I'm complaining. I've been trying to keep up running as long as I can (I usually fall off the wagon once it gets chilly) and the weather definitely makes that more agreeable.
That's what we've been up to while the blog has been quiet. ;o) Now off to snuggle a little guy who didn't wake up from his nap well and figure out what I can rummage up for supper!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Give-Away!!!

Inspired by these adorable little finger puppets I decided to make a set for my own bunch and then thought, "Why not make two?"  And so I did. ;o)
Hopefully, who they are supposed to be is fairly self-explanatory!
They are a mix of felt, humble embroidery, some gluing, and a dash of glitter glue.
If you would like to win these little fellas, be you a mama, a grandma, or somebody who would like to re-gift to a family who could use them, go ahead a leave me a comment--tell me your favorite Christmas memory from childhood!!
I'll be drawing the winner the morning of December 1st.
(please leave me an email to reach you in this form: yourname (at) wherever (dot) com)

Stationery card

For Unto Us Religious Christmas Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Gifts for Kids~Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday . . . a few things my girls have enjoyed (probably within the age range of 5-10 years old).
"Loops and Loom" you can find these all over!  My only suggestion when looking is to make sure your loom has a bit of a hook to the the top so the loops don't slip right off.  We had one like that and it was beyond frustrating. 
This is one of our favorite project books for kids.  Isabella will sit with it often and make stuff from it (all without help from me).  Pair this books with a package of needles, felt in a variety of colors, and perhaps a few colorful "fat quarters" and you've got a perfect gift for a crafty sort of girl.
This kit has been a lot of fun for my girls!  There are templates for different fairy heads, dresses, accessories, etc and you can pick and choose and then trace to create your own fairy.  There is a horse kit too (for the equestrian loving girl).  I linked it up to Amazon, however we purchased ours from either Hearth Song or Magic Cabin.  If you sign up for their emails they almost always have some sort of free or reduced shipping deals during this time of year.
I still haven't gotten around to reading them, but both my girls have LOVED these books.  We currently have the first four in the series, set when Betsy and her friends are girls, but the series goes on, all the way up until Betsy getting married.  From what I have gathered, they are books every girl should read!
If you have a girl who loves dolls (be them American Girl or not!) these little books/kits are adorable! They have incredibly creative ideas for making items for your dolls and Isabella has had so much fun creating all sorts of scenes and activities for her dolls.  It actually makes me want to play . . . ;o)

What's on the girls' wish lists this year?  For the most part books (which always does my heart good). ;o) Marissa wants books about writing and drawing as well as some new fiction stories.  Isabella wants more of those American Girl kits, a variety of crafting/sewing books, the final two stories to complete her "Little House on the Prairie" collection, and some doll clothes--we found that Amazon sells clothing to fit 18 inch dolls (much cheaper than the actual American Girl clothing).  Marissa is also pushing for her own laptop, because she say editing her stories in her notebooks is much too sloppy and time consuming.  I see her point, but unless we find a REALLY cheap one I'm thinking her own laptop might be a ways off. ;o)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Gifts for Kids~Part One

Lately my wheels have been turning as I attempt to compile wish lists for the kids this year (Amazon all the way!). ;o)  We keep our gift buying fairly simple and inexpensive.  Most times as I'm configuring lists I'm thinking ahead, "What do we need to survive these winter months without going crazy?" I thought I might share a few of our absolute favorites--perhaps no-brainer ideas--but something I think every household should have (especially if you have little boys, but my girls have enjoyed these things too).  I'm always on the look-out for toys considered "open-ended" where kids must use their imaginations to decide how to use them.

Trio Blocks--both Jackson and Emmett have loved these (going on two years now!).  They almost get played with daily.  We have collected several additional kits to go along with it.  And yes, these seem to work great for building weaponry of the gun-sort. ;o) This year I'm eyeing the "gears" set for Emmett. 
If you don't have a set of wooden blocks, you need one.  All of my kids play with these, in fact one of their favorite things to do together is build a zoo and put all the Fisher Price Little People animals that we have in their pens.  This set is really nice quality.
Jackson has been bitten by the Lego bug.  Yes, they are messy.  Yes, I step on them far too often. But also yes, they keep him busy, sometimes for HOURS.  Here is a good starter set and then you can purchase added kits to your heart's content. ;o)
Mr. Potato Head--enough said? ;o)  We have slowly grown a collection of parts, purchasing specialty kits from time to time.  It has long been one of Jackson's favorites and Owen is getting interested in decorating them now too.
These we do not own, but having watched my kids play with them at various children's museums and knowing how my mom used them in the after-school program she ran, I'm pretty certain we would enjoy them (they are a bit more on the pricey side though, particularly if you are going to get enough to build something super cool).
And last but not least, something my sister and I laugh about every year, thinking this just might be the best gift of all:
I'm thinking three rolls could get you a day of busy kids, so buy in multiple quantities. ;o)  My kids are constantly confiscating my tape and I'm always out because of it.  Get them their own!  What a great stocking stuffer. ;o)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Latest News--

What's been happening around these parts--

~I noticed the North Platte Walmart was carrying these reusable diapers "Mabu Baby" and since I'm only diapering at night now, we decided to give it a try.  They work pretty good!  I might get some of the smaller sized inserts to add a bit of extra absorbency but otherwise I can get rid of my diaper expense!  It's hard to believe that I've been buying diapers for ten years and that a new diaper-less era is ahead.

~I've begun to transition in my winter decorations.  I used to be a "day after Thanksgiving" kind of Christmas decorator,  but now I have five kids and I homeschool.  I've got to get a head start or it'll never happen! ;o)  Plus, I'm a "tweaker."  I set something up, walk by it for a few hours, and then think "Nah," and change it up.  It's quite a process and I'll be doing it for the rest of November.

~I was reading a story Marissa was working on and when I came to the main character's name I absolutely lost it.  Are you ready?  Introducing . . .  "Hiro Shittfill." Every time I think about it I burst out laughing all over again.  I told her she might want to think of a different last name.

~I'm working on a little blog give-away again, so stay tuned (maybe I'll have it ready come Monday?).

~We'll be heading back to Lincoln come next Wednesday afternoon and are looking forward to seeing all "our people" again.  And eating. ;o)

~Two awesome recipes that use all those bags of cranberries that are now in the grocery stores:
#1--Cream Cheese Cranberry Muffins (I usually leave out the pecans because my kids don't enjoy nuts and sometimes I throw in some white chocolate chips which is really tasty) and #2--Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip (I just tried it this weekend and it was incredibly yummy, you could just make the salsa part and leave out the cream cheese, but when have you not known cream cheese to make something better?) ;o)

~We've been delighted with more bird variety at the feeder.  We've determined our first visitors were House Finches.  The biggest excitement has been a visit (and return visit!) from a Northern Flicker--the biggest woodpecker!  He was big and colorful.  We think we also had a Black-Capped Chickadee.  We are truly loving the interruptions these birds bring to our day.

And I think that catches me up for the moment! ;o)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Christmas Picture Photo Shoot

Brace yourselves for a heavily "pictured" post. ;o)
I would have liked to have done pictures earlier in the fall season, but I was hoping to put a little thought into clothing choices and all, and quite frankly trying to get five kids to coordinate takes more than a little bit of effort.  I had a little suit that had once been Jackson's to hand down to Owen, and that left me finding four outfits to go with that.  In complete lazy mom fashion, I dressed the girls alike, and the other two boys alike.  And in case you didn't know, Arapahoe really lacks in clothing stores. ;o)  A lot of shopping is done online and then I wait (and wait) for things to arrive.  Thankfully, Saturday morning all clothing was finally in hand and the weather was gorgeous so we set out for this old abandoned home I had seen about ten miles north of Arapahoe. I had Josh with me, our "muse."  I asked him if he could please not make the kids laugh so much that I have wide open mouths in all the pictures.  He informed me beggars can't be choosers. ;o)  So, take a look at my group shots and then tell me which one you would enjoy seeing on a Christmas card!  (Which by the way I won yet another blog give-away for 25 free cards from Shutter-fly!! Can you believe it! I've never won anything in my life until blog give-aways came along!)
(Just what I was afraid of!)


And then I tried to get some individual shots of each of the kids (grandparents, let me know your favorites because you'll be getting some pictures for Christmas!!) ;o)


(I'm a bit swoony over the light in this one!)


And last, but not least . . .
(yeah, that's all I've got, maybe we'll retry him tomorrow . . . ) ;o)
I'm really enjoying my camera! I still barely know how to use it and wish I could take a class (but I'm not really interested in the commute involved in such an endeavor).  I try to read what I can, and copy others (the sincerest form of flattery you know). ;o)  After I look over a bunch of pictures I always see a million things I could do better . . . clipping off fingers, too much light, not enough, etc, etc, etc.  I'm pretty certain this will never be more than a hobby for me, but it is still fun to play around with.  I was really happy with the amount of usable pictures I ended up with this time around--most often photo shoots are abysmal failures.  Yay for (mostly) cooperative children!!
Now off to work on a photo order!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas Carol Ornaments

Awhile back I found this ornament inspiration (via pinterest).  Being someone who loves printed word, I thought the ornaments perfect.  However, as I thought about recreating them I realized I wasn't capable of using just *any* printed word (a personality flaw--not to mention I was fresh out of vintage German book pages). ;o)  I didn't want an ornament with something on it that had nothing to do with Christmas.  I brainstormed a bit and landed upon a solution--Christmas carols!  And not just the words, but the music too!  I discovered this little site that seriously has hundreds of options--just scroll through the list.  I was looking for ones that had a particularly aged appearance.  I printed them out on regular old white printer paper.  And then with this cast of characters--

Created these--

I've only got these two done, but they are fairly simple.  I used my little paper trimmer to cut the music into strips--some I left long, some are shorter. I covered the ball in Modge Podge, smoothed my strips around--over-lapping willy-nilly--but saving the song title for very last so I could read it, a little more Modge Podge and then glittered and left to dry (hanging from my kitchen cabinet knobs).
And yippee!  A new favorite ornament! ;o)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lessons in Naptime

Every once in a while Owen decides he would rather not take a nap.  On these days I notice the high energy, the gleam in his eyes, the way he giggles at everything he does.  I wait it out a bit, hoping he will get some of that spunk out.  Slowly, the situation starts to unravel, he pushes limits a bit more, and instead of tiring himself out I find him picking up speed.  It is at that time I have to intervene.  I lay down with my little boy who was just giggling, but now furious. He fights the arms that attempt to cradle and snuggle.  He pays no heed to words meant to soothe.  He does his best to wiggle away.  He gets mad and he cries.  He wants his own way so badly.  I know it would be easier to just let him get up and run free.  But I stick it out, knowing how much he needs this nap.  I know what is best for him. 

Always, at this point I find myself so sad, if he would just give in, acquiesce that stubborn little will of his, he would see how tired he is, how I'm doing what is best for him by making him lay down.  I think of myself and my heavenly Father, how far too often I am the crying wiggling toddler intent on my own way.  How often I fight Him because I have a better plan.  And how sad He must be to see me flail around, a big ol' mess,  when I could just be doing it His way.

My heart is grieved as I think these thoughts, meanwhile Owen calms.  He snuggles up next to me and his breathing evens out.  I wait a minute or two, and slip out of the room, leaving him sleeping peacefully, thinking "See how easy that could have been, little one."

 And realizing God probably thinks the same toward me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Menu Planning . . . revisited

Two years ago, pregnant with Owen, I sat down and worked on a perpetual menu, a binder to hold the go-to recipes, and grocery lists saved to my computer that I could go and print off whenever the grocery-shopping whim struck me.  It truly was a life-saver and a time-saver while Josh finished up school.  We would usually do a huge monthly trip, working it around a day where he would have time. We'd all head off to Walmart and three carts or so later we'd return home.  It worked great.  For that period of life.

I've been trying to make that same plan work here, but it's just not cutting it.  My closest (and least favorite Walmart) is half an hour away.  The one where I do most of my shopping (Kearney) is a full hour--and yes, I bring coolers and put as many perishables on ice as possible.  Usually, the only time we go into Kearney is on Tuesday for violin lessons.  We tried all of us making the trip--dropping the girls at lessons, jetting across Kearney, me giving Josh half the list and I taking the other and zooming through Walmart during the 5:00 hour.  We did set a grocery shopping record (two weeks of groceries completely through the cashier in 40 minutes is brag-worthy, is it not?) but we also ended up five minutes late retrieving the girls from lessons (and even though it was just a few minutes, I felt terrible).  Josh informed me he was really hating Tuesdays, teaching all day, long drive to Kearney, crazy grocery store, long drive home, and asked how about he keep the boys and just the girls and I go? The last few weeks I've done that. 

But now, wrestling season is starting . . . I've lost my "boy sitter."  :o( And while I will still probably do my weekly grocery shopping in Kearney, I'm going to have a lot of "help."  That means it is time to S.I.M.P.L.I.F.Y.--I will only shop for one week of groceries at a time.  And so today, I started tweaking things a bit and came up with this nifty six week menu grid--

And let's get honest, anything organized neatly on a grid reduces me to a puddle of giddiness and makes me feel oh-so-competent. ;o)  Next up, I'll be typing up the (now smaller) grocery lists and then
Six weeks of menus literally at my fingertips--at a more doable once-a-week-with-five-kids-in-tow pace!  Now to convince the almost two year old that the shopping-cart-seat-tightly-fastened-in really is THE BEST seat in the house.  And also "No, we have to pay for the bananas before we eat them."  Certainly my winter shall be filled with many a calm grocery shopping experience . . .  Right??
If only a grid were *that* magical. ;o)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some Links

This posting on birth control pills was very interesting--truly something every woman should read.  I am thankful I had a mom savvy enough to know the hidden info and keep me informed.  I've never been on "the pill" (at which you might roll your eyes and think, well obviously you have five kids--but only one of those was technically "unplanned").  There ARE other ways, perhaps more inconvenient, but to me, worth it.  Obviously, this is a very personal decision, but I worry about how many women go into it truly uninformed.  I wonder how many suffer infertility because of using them too, be it long-term or temporary.

I thought this post on raising older girls good--not that it couldn't apply to boys too!  It's a good reminder that an attitude that seems "not that big a deal" could grow into something really yucky if left untended. 

These buttermilk biscuits were gobbled up by my gang--they're great (and quick!) for "soup-er Saturday." ;o)

On my list to try Coconut Cream Bread Pudding --that just sounds heavenly. ;o)

Have a happy Saturday! ;o)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Hodge Podge

A little recap of the week--
On Sunday we had our yearly Hansmeyer family reunion, fondly referred to as our "Fall Family Festival" although my kids enjoy calling it the "Hansmeyer Hoedown."  It is always great fun to catch up with aunts/uncles/cousins that for the most past only get seen once a year.  This year my parents hosted and a hay rack ride was included out at my brother's place.  There is a cool "trail" that was once a railroad track, but all the track has been removed.  It goes through the trees and over several bridges.  My dad stopped here, and while adults chatted the kids hopped off and climbed a hill and slid down.
I was so happy to have completed jean shopping the day before so we could get them all properly "broken in." ;o)
Monday we were back to regular life and back to the books . . . all while feeling pretty miserable with colds that seemed to hit the family simultaneously.  We were, however, quite delighted to discover the birds have finally found our feeder! 
I can't figure out what kind they are!  The birdies are kind of gray-ish brown and one (who I think might be the male) has a slight tinge of red on his head and belly.  Even a call to my dad who spent a good portion of his youth shooting birds and then taking his specimens over to the encyclopedia for identification couldn't help me out!  They've come back every day, sometimes even making several visits. 
And we are officially in full potty training mode!  After spending the last few weeks "nekkid" we made the jump to underwear this week--
I cannot tell you how this little boy has shocked me over and over again.  I had it pretty easy with my girls.  Jackson was a horrifying experience.  And Emmett was okay, probably fairly normal.  Owen has been the easiest all around!  He's not afraid to use strange bathrooms.  He climbs up on the potty all by himself without even the aid of a stool.  He'll sit there and yell, "I pooped!" (which all of my kids found to initially be a terrifying experience)  Of course, he does have six cheerleaders applauding all of his efforts. ;o)  Today he had only one accident, stayed dry for nap, and even spent an extended period playing outside without being hounded to go potty.  So, at home he is doing awesome!  I'm still a bit nervous to take this show on the road though . . . I'm not sure how to handle church this weekend.  I don't have any idea what he would do in the care of others.
My older three spent ALL afternoon playing in the dirt, working on this--
We have a rather boring yard, but we do have a line of trees, the border between our yard and a field.  All sorts of fun and adventure happens over there.  I'm thankful the kids have such an untamed place to use their imaginations (this is a "dust factory" in the event you wondered). They came inside for supper, thoroughly dirt-covered and rosy-cheeked with ravenous appetites.  I count that a day well spent. ;o)  And with it being November, who knows how many of these days we have left this year?  We did see a bit of snow showers yesterday, but nothing that stuck to the ground (much to all of our dismay). 
We're anticipating a weekend at home--I figured out we were gone a solid week in October!  There's a lot of "catching up" to do.  Slowly but surely, I'm making my way through the piles.  Although that dust factory really did nothing for the laundry situation . . . ;o)