Month: December 2011

365 Things and then some

Every year I try to come up with something frugal yet meaningful for my husband’s Christmas gift.  Last year, he was thrilled when I put together the 12 Lays of Christmas.  This year I was inspired by a couple different ideas I found for 365 loves notes in a jar.  I did something similar – although much less complicated – with his deck-of-cards gift for Valentine’s Day a couple years back.

I will admit that, despite all the wonderful things there are about Phil, it was hard to come up with a list of 365 things that weren’t repetitive.  So, I branched out, filling in the blanks with fun things, silly memories, quotes and my take on them (including some printables), favorite Bible verses, even a bunch of tidbits from friends and family members (it was so much fun hearing the kiddos’ answers to why they love their daddy).  I finished it up just in time and basically ignored the kids for an evening while I printed everything out on cardstock and put it together.

Similar to the invitation ornament I made recently, I thought it would be nice  to curl the strips of paper so they would look pretty in a jar (man, it took forever).  There were so many pieces of curled paper I had no idea what to put them in… till I spied a big ol’ pickle jar that I was currently using to display Christmas ornaments.  I poured some peanut M&Ms in the bottoms of the jar and filled it the rest of the way with the 365 sentiments.  Then I tied some ribbon around the mouth of the jar, along with Naughty or Nice notes that I used as a gift tag and a couple ornaments for decoration.  


Phil seemed pretty excited about the gift, and instead of waiting for January 1st he decided to read one right away (so it could last till next Christmas, according to him).  The jar sits on the bureau next to our bed so he will remember to pick one each day, and I’m thankful that it will take a whole year so he probably won’t realize that some of them are so similar. *grin*

Although not handmade, a huge hit with the whole family was the gift Phil got in his stocking, inspired yet again by Pinterest.  I planned on giving it to him when he got home from work, just like the original picture, but it worked out nicely this way.  While he was opening his Nerf gun, I had mine next to me and nailed him first.  Thus ensued all of us running around the house, hiding behind furniture and in doorways, scrambling for the spent ammo since I hadn’t bought refills.

My family and I didn’t do Secret Santa this year, but I still like to give the grandparents something from the kids.  I had planned on doing the Box of Love, but didn’t get around to it in time.  For his parents, Phil helped me make a picture frame using one of their old window frames.  We put 5x7s in each of the eight openings, then Phil mounted cardboard backing and a picture hanger.  It looked wonderful; I need to get a picture of the end result.  For my parents, he helped me whip up a cute little wooden block photo ornament and I love how it came out; I strung it on neutral ribbon so it can be used year-round.  You can’t really tell by the photo, but there are pictures on all sides.  I had debated whether or not to do one picture and put scrapbook paper on the other sides, but in the end I did it this way.  The possibilities are endless! 


I have a whole bunch of plain wooden blocks from scrap wood that Phil cut for me, so these will definitely be on my project list throughout the year.  There are so many other things I could do with them!

A while back Phil also cut out the forms for the wooden warblers for me – he’s so handy!  I had fun breaking out the materials to make a set for my cousin and her twin babies, so I decided to make one for Nikki and her baby girl.

Now that Christmas is over, I feel like I can take a deep breath.  However, I am excited about the gift I’ve been putting together for my big sis, whose birthday is in January.  Here’s a little preview:


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

All that anticipation and preparation and Christmas is all over!  Isn’t that life?  We take so much time getting ready for an event and then it comes and goes – snap! – like that. 

We had  a wonderful holiday with family.  Last week I took it easy for preschool but we still did some educational activities (more on that later).  I wanted to take another week off, especially since Daddy took some time off work, but I was afraid if I kept putting it off it would be harder to get back into the routine of things!

It turns out that it was a good thing Phil was home.  He saw that I had a flat tire and when he went to change it out discovered that the rear axle of my car had disconnected due to rust damage.  I crossed a couple bridges visiting Nikki just before Christmas and was envisioning getting into an accident or stranded on the bridge.  I’ve been a bit upset about the whole thing since we initially thought we would have to buy another vehicle right away, and I didn’t want Phil to be working on projects during his time off, but there are definitely blessings to be counted.  So, my car is currently out-of-commisson, and I’m waiting for my mom to come over so she can help me run errands. 

We sent out our annual Christmas letter along with cards this year, and as I always do I figured I would post it here for those interested.  Happy reading

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Best of My Days

I’m always on the lookout for crafty ideas, in case you couldn’t tell from my Pinterest board.  I love checking in with some of my favorite craft blogs for new projects – especially if they’re cheap and easy!  Handmade gifts are always special to me – both giving and receiving. 

I happened upon Under the Sycamore’s DIY category and immediately fell in love with her tutorials.  Check out the pallet bed, shadow box displayhairpin vase and woven bracelet – all ideas I’ve bookmarked!  

Then I stumbled upon her free printable for a mini journal called Best of My Days and I printed out a few copies right away. 


This is a great way to think about your day and highlight a specific area without committing to writing a lot.  It’s kind of like what we do at the end of the day with the kiddos: at dinnertime or before bed, I ask Gwen and Josiah what their favorite parts of the day were.  It’s always interesting to see what they say!  

Raw edges appeal to me, so instead of cutting out the cardstock with clean lines, I ripped them along the side of a ruler.  Then I cut holes in the corners and attached them with a metal ring.  I love how she decorated hers with recycled cardboard coffee sleeves, doilies and colorful ribbon and yarn in her 2011 version.  I didn’t have all of these things but I did find some of what I learned is upholstery webbing, scraps of lace and green ribbon that I ened up not using for Gwen’s mermaid tutu.  So I layered these altogether with my trusty glue gun; I love how they turned out!     

If you need a quick gift idea or stocking stuffer this would be fabulous!  There’s a stripey version that would be suitable for guys, too.

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Preschool: N is for Notes

I have always loved writing letters, and growing up I had a number of pen pals, both domestic and international.  Letter-writing is an art form that has fallen by the wayside, and while I don’t write nearly as much as I used to, I still love to send and receive letters.

It was with this in mind that I was inspired for last week’s theme.  While writing up my homeschool outline earlier this year, I was stuck on letters M and N for a while; my mom suggested “N for notes,” that I could apply it to either music notes or letter-writing, but I decided to dedicate a separate week to each topic. 

Our Bible story for the week was Daniel in the lion’s den, our Bible verse Luke 1:37 – Nothing is impossible with God.  Simple, yet profound.  We read the short re-telling of the story from 100 Bible Stories, 100 Bible Songs and then we read the minibook from Bible Story Printables, which I printed out twice so I could cut out the pictures for sequencing cards.  I also printed out some of the images for the story sticks, which the kids got a kick out of; they wanted to take turns holding them.  I could have sworn I got pictures of this, but I can’t seem to find them – arrrgh.

Gwen and I were so happy that Daddy decided to join us in making yarn lions.  He did a pretty good job, too – I think his lion came out the best!  I cut circles from orange construction paper, and we used googly eyes, pom poms noses, drew on the mouth, then glued yarn for the mane.


Since Gwen is still young, my ideas for letter-writing were somewhat limited.  I did, however, find this cute Princess Papers Lapbook which has elements to teach about the format for writing a letter, addressing an envelope, and so forth.  I didn’t use all the elements, but I made a pocket lapbook with space for cards and some snazzy stationery downloads, envelopes, stamps, and a few extras such as telephone and emergency numbers. 

I used the latter in conjunction with a phone number cut-and-paste since I’ve been meaning to teach her this for a while now.  Since Daddy is a fireman, she’s beginning to understand the concept of people dialing for help, and she’s already familiar with the phone in general.

We went through her little lapbook, then I helped her write a thank you note to one of her aunties, who had just given her a little gift.  I explained how I was writing it, then she dictated the content while I wrote word-for-word, then signed her own name at the bottom.  We even used her own special address labels on the envelope!  She was pretty excited. 

I had a bunch of other things planned, like using an interactive letter generator and making little felt envelopes, but just didn’t get around to it. *sigh*  She actually has the Cranium Bloom Let’s Play Stamp & Mail, and I totally forgot about it!  She and Josiah were fighting over it a while ago and not being nice with their things, and this was just one of many items I confiscated.  You can check out some of my other good-intentioned ideas.     

Both Gwen and Josiah decorated their letter poster with pieces of newspaper.  What a fun little activity!  They got to rip the newspaper into little pieces and then glue them into place.


I gave Josiah one of his dry erase books and Gwen did some workbooks, looked through some magazines for pictures that start with the letter N for a cut-and-paste, and her Do-A-Dot page – one of her favorite weekly activities. 

Our number for the week was 13.  Gwen colored her number poster and did a bunch of connect-the-dots-by-number pages. 

As Christmas looms closer and closer I have become more forgetful about introducing material throughout the week – especially the shapes and colors.  The color of the week was tan, and I happened to have a book from the library called black is brown is tan, which we read and opened up the doorway for discussing skin color.  I pointed out a few things around the house that were dark brown, and then contrasted them with lighter brown items – for instance, the dark hutch vs. the lighter brown piece of cardboard. 

More of a story than a poem, our rhyme for the week was “We’re Going On a Lion Hunt.”  I found a book by that name at the library, so I read that… or, rather, tried to remember the tune to it since it’s more of a song. 

One of the activities for our advent calendar was to learn about holidays in another culture.  I was so excited about celebrating St. Lucia Day with Gwendolyn.  I myself am half Danish, and enjoy many of my family traditions, as well as learning about other cultural traditions – especially Scandinavian ones.  Growing up, I loved the American Girl stories (and back then there were fewer characters), my favorite being that of Kirsten Larson, a Swedish immigrant to the United States.  I always loved the Christmas story of Kirsten dressing up as St. Lucia and thought Gwen would totally go for this. 

I was wrong. 

The one time I try to dress her up and she wouldn’t have it.  And this girl lives for dress-up.  I tried to keep it in perspective, but in all honesty I was disappointed that I had gotten excited about the prospect, planned things, put it on our advent calendar… only to be thwarted by a bratty four-year-old.  C’est la vie.  She looked cute while it lasted.

I didn’t make the traditional St. Lucia buns, but apparently any sort of sweet bread could pass, so I made my own version of a french toast casserole using a loaf of challah bread.

She and Josiah did help me make my own healthier version of candy cane cookies, some of which we brought to the lovely ladies at our local library (how’s that for alliteration?).  They even helped me wash some dishes.  I hope they’re still thrilled about helping out around the house when their technique is perfected.


One of the reasons why we didn’t cover all the material for the week is because we had a field trip of sorts.  Gwen enjoys the story of “The Nutcracker,” and I’ve put it in our stack of holiday books.  Friday morning after breakfast I read the story again and told them we were going to see The Nutcracker!  Two of Gwen’s young cousins were in a performance and we had fun going to see the show.

Later in the day Josiah was being creative with his choice of outfits.  This kid cracks me up (pun intended).  Yup, that’s my little naked cowboy fireman.  And no, he’s not learning this from his father.  

He’s always making me scramble for my camera.

Bulletin Board

Book Basket
Daniel in the Lion’s Den

My Name Is Yoon
The Jolly Postman
Corduroy Writes a Letter
Yours Truly, Goldilocks

The Nice Book
One Naked Baby
My “n” Book
Too Much Noise

Bean Thirteen

Black is Brown is Tan

We’re Going on a Lion Hunt

Superbook Video Bible – Daniel in the Lion’s Den
The Neverending Story        

The First Christmas
The Wild Christmas Reindeer
YesVirginia (DVD)
A Mom for Christmas (DVD)

Linking Up…

Tot School

Gwen is 4 years old (48 months) and Josiah is 2 (24 months).

Preschool: M is for Music

Moving and grooving to the holiday beat, whipping out some Christmas crafts and goodies, trying not to feel pressured to finish everything on my To Do list – including preschool.

In addition to the regular printables we use (you can find them on the homeschool page), I always look for supporting materials to go along with the theme I’ve planned for the week.  Sometimes a craft or activity is obvious – like, one would assume with a week focused on music, we’d listen to lots of music, right?  Ha, funny thing… other than playing Christmas music or listening to the radio, we only watched one music DVD.  I had so many good intentions!  But then, that seems to be the re-occurring theme in my life.

We started off the week with a bang, decorating the Charlie Brown tree we picked from the yard over the weekend.  I don’t mind if there are huge gaps in the branches – that just means I get to fill in the gaps with ornaments!  I really do love how it looks, and the experience is fun for the kids.  We were supposed to decorate it as a family, but we had a disagreement with our light strands.  Yup, you know how that goes. 


I let the kiddos play, as only they can do, and later on we made cookies in a jar for our mail lady.  They love pouring stuff (and begging for M&Ms).

Last week we learned about David and Goliath – a classic!  Christian Preschool Printables is one of my go-to websites for finding printables to supplement a Bible story.  I could create a lapbook with all the things they have – like I did when we talked about Noah’s Ark – but more often than not I choose one or two to keep it simple.  A favorite of ours is to print a minibook for the topic – once for telling the story, and again on cardstock or to laminate for sequencing cards.  It’s like a puzzle to Gwen, and in trying to figure out the story she ends up re-telling the story and remembering the events.  Pretty cool!

I stumbled upon this neat idea for turning the story of David and Goliath into an object lesson, but instead of using rocks, I thought – marbles!  We have lots of marbles already – and hey, M for marbles for the letter of the week – and they’d be so much easier on the floor.  So I got out the jar of marbles – the kids were so excited at the prospect!  I don’t usually let them play with the marbles so it was somewhat new to them. 

First we each had five marbles to represent the five stones David had, and we had to hit the large marble in the middle, representing Goliath.  After that, we played traditional marbles, and I have to say – it was so much fun having Daddy home to play with us, and my two little kids caught on really quickly!  It wasn’t one of those games where I’m impatient to have it over with already (like Candyland – c’mon, admit it already!).


I suppose I could have done something fun like M for monsters, or machines, or… I dunno… but my kids like music so that seemed the obvious choice to me.  We made toilet paper tube maracas – actually a rather time-consuming project waiting for the layers of tissue paper to dry – and all three of us had fun decorating them with glitter glue.   


When they were finally dry, we danced around with them while watching “Let’s Make Music,” a favorite since Gwen was a baby. 


I really wanted to play freeze dance with them, but this fell by the wayside.  I printed out My Musical Instrument book half the size and we talked about the groups of instruments, after which I helped Gwen categorize the types of instruments on her music worksheets (some of them are obviously for older kids, so they’re great to keep for future reference, but you can bring any number of activities down to a younger child’s level).

We’re officially at the halfway point in the alphabet!  Gwen has come a long way since her first week of preschool and I’m so proud of her.  Since I’ve been including Josiah more in things I often try to divide an activity, rather than print something out twice.  So Gwen decorated the uppercase M from her letter poster while Josiah decorated the lowercase M.  They made macaroni Ms with pasta I dyed different colors. 


There’s just something about those Do-A-Dot pages; the kids love ’em! 

They also love dry erase, and Gwen did her usual slew – letter hunt and worksheets that I put in page protectors.  Even though I try not to push writing, she’s been getting better at it, and to break things up I often bring out her Kumon tracing book (it seems like fun tracing lines but she’s really learning how to hold a pencil).


I don’t usually take pictures of computer time, but we usually do the Starfall letter activity at least once a week, and Gwen often gets some computer time on any number of interactive websites.


Twelve was our number for the week, and though we did various counting activities, I think this is the only week we forgot to color the number poster.  Oh well!  One of the books we read talks about the twelve months of the year, and though I didn’t think of it then you could also discuss he twelve days of Christmas (which actually begin after Christmas, contrary to popular belief).

I know there must be lots of rhymes about music out there, but I stuck with “Ride a Cockhorse” from my copy of The Puffin Baby and Toddler Treasury.

Bulletin Board

The kiddos put their artistic skills to good use and helped me decorate our Christmas cards.  I hope the recipients turn the card over to see their handiwork!

Book Basket
Snow Music
The Singing Ringing Tree

Monsters Are Like That
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Melody’s Kooky Cover-Up
No More Monsters for Me!
My Messy Room
My “m” Book
Momma’s Magical Purse
My Mommy Is Magic
Mirette On The High Wire

The Twelve Days of Winter
Twelve Hats for Lena

Monsters, Inc.
Let’s Make Music!

Kirsten’s Surprise – A Christmas Story

Linking Up…

Tot School

Gwen is 4 years old (48 months) and Josiah is 2 (24 months).