Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

We did old fashioned heart shaped valentines this year for Elizabeth’s class. We took it to the next level by adding each child’s initial to the front. The card stock letters came in a pack from Target for $3.99. I only had to trace one E to make an extra (there are a lot of Es in Elizabeth’s class and she wanted me to make her one, too). The teachers got just hearts.

We are having a little family Valentine’s Day at home tonight. Duncan and I don’t give each other presents or do any big celebration. We will instead have a frozen pizza for us and macaroni & cheese for the kids. We might put on a movie for the whole family or play a board game. Nice, quiet, fun. Love it.

~Krista

Our Quiet Time/ Activity Boxes

Our Quiet Time/ Activity Boxes

This could alternately be called How Creating Our Quiet Time/ Activity Boxes Helped with the Simplification of Elizabeth’s Room, but that seemed a bit long.

A friend on Facebook linked to these Quiet Time Boxes by Teaching Mama and I quickly became obsessed by the idea of them.

They seemed like such a great way to promote the use of so many different little toy sets we have.

I have been working with Elizabeth to get rid of toys she doesn’t play with. This is probably an uphill battle with any child, but Elizabeth has always seemed particularly like a hoarder in the making to me (we can never go on a nature walk without coming home with a bag or stroller filled with “nature” and we always stop and pick up the best rocks).

She started showing willingness to part with things in giving a lot of her old things to Claire. We took it further and had some success lately on purging her excess possessions. She really likes to have her room clean and fewer things mean a cleaner room. We took out a duplicate doll bed (she picked which one to keep and thankfully kept the wood one and got rid of the plastic one), plastic doll car seat, and two boxes of miscellaneous things. We threw away everything that was broken and fixed what we could that we wanted to keep. We initially took out her play kitchen because it seemed like she rarely used it, but it is back by popular demand.

We freed up her closet shelves by taking out puzzles and games rarely used to the garage. She has an empty top drawer of her dresser for any of her tiny things or collections. She has four cubby spots on her expedit shelf for books and four for baskets of miscelaneous toys (toy tools, musical instruments, dinosaurs, ect.). She has a bin of dollhouse toys, a bin for dress up, a doll bed with cabinet underneath for doll stuff, and cups for her art supplies (colored pencils, markers, crayons).

When I showed her the picture about the quiet time boxes, she was excited. I told her that since we were getting rid of things she didn’t really play with, we would get her a few new toys to go in the quiet time boxes. Each box has at least one new thing and the rest we already had around the house. She is really excited about them.

Note: I’m providing some links below just to be helpful. I’m not paid for anything and don’t mean for anyone reading this to feel the need to buy these things. I just genuinely like them.

Here are our boxes:

Monday-

1. Play-doh Design a Dress Cinderella. This is new and it is much loved already by Elizabeth.

2. Melissa & Doug Stamp Set. We bought ours before Christmas from our local toy store, Hopscotch.

3. Drawing pad book with Bejeweled crayons (maybe the only glitter thing I have in the house :) ). It is just the Target store brand drawing book and I made a new cover for (taped onto the original). These are new.

4. Fairy Tale Hidden Picture Coloring Book. I had a copy of this when I was a child and I bought this one a few years ago from a local art shop. It has about 20 fairy tales and a picture of the story on the page next to the story. We read them all the other day and Elizabeth likes looking for the hidden items in the picture.

5. Diego & Baby Jaguar puzzle. (This is from a set of three that was a gift to Elizabeth). We have multiple small puzzles ranging from 12-30 pieces and I plan to occasionally switch them out into these boxes.

Tuesday-

1. Wipe Clean Workbook Numbers (1-30). This is new and uses dry erase markers (I found some washable ones at Target to go with it.

2. Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad:  Play House. We have had this for a while.

3. Beads & Buttons. The beads were a Melissa and Doug kit from our local toy store. The buttons were from a pack of buttons from the craft store. Elizabeth loves playing with them and sorting them. We used to keep them in a jar, but this is so much better (we are using a wood puzzle box that has a lid to keep them in and they fit well in the bigger bin).

4. Two puzzles from the Melissa & Doug Construction set puzzles. These will be changed out periodically.

5. Melissa & Doug On The Go Color Blast- Princesses. This was actually an oops purchase. I thought it was one of the reusable Water Wow books- I had been searching through those and linked to this some how. Elizabeth loves it so I’m glad I got it, but I am sad that it is just done when used up (I guess like any other coloring book would be).

 Wednesday- 

1. Pattern Block Activity Set. This has many different shapes and maps that you can fit them into. I picked it up at Goodwill a few years ago.

2. Jake & The Neverland Pirates Coloring Book. This is new. Elizabeth is a very big fan of Jake right now.

3. Tinkerbell magnet dress up kit. This was a gift from a friend. Elizabeth has a separate bin of magnet dress up dolls, but this one isn’t the same size so it gets a special place in the box.

4. I Spy Puzzle game. I think I got this years ago at Goodwill for $2. It has been so beloved. Elizabeth might be growing out of it soon (she has is completely memorized) and we will save it for Claire. We don’t have the box anymore and I couldn’t find it online.

5. Dora and Boots puzzle.

Thursday-

1. Melissa & Doug Animal Lace Up. This was a gift a few years ago.

2. Playful Pictures Animals Coloring Book. This was a Christmas gift. The pictures are really neat.

3. Dry Erase Board, double sided, blank on one side, lined on the other with marker and eraser. I just bought this off of Amazon. I was hoping it would be better quality than the dollar bin one at Target, but it really isn’t. It is fine for our purposes, but it wasn’t worth the extra money just for the marker and eraser. Elizabeth is thrilled with it though.

4. Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow- Animals. I did manage to buy one of the actual water wow books. We have old ones of Thomas the Tank and Dora, so I got this new one for Elizabeth. It is wonderful. The brush is really good- you fill it with water. Elizabeth kindly gave her old ones for Claire so we put those in a bin for her.

5. My Book of Little House Paper Dolls. This is just wonderful. We have a few of the early reader version of the Little House books that Elizabeth and I love reading together. One of them references how Ma sometimes made paper dolls for the girls. Elizabeth was asking me to make them. I found this instead and it has been tied for most popular of all the bin things (along with the Cinderella Play-doh). It did take me about 3 1/2 hours to cut out all the clothes with manicure scissors, but it was completely worth it.

6. Melissa & Doug Dinosaur Puzzle set. We have had this for a few years.

Friday-

1. Melissa & Doug Paint with Water. This is one we have had for a while and are about half way through.

2. First Coloring Book Pirates. This was a Christmas gift. Really neat coloring book.

3. Sesame Street Felt Book. We got this a few years ago at Costco (for like $9.99). It is really nice. It used to have a story book that went with it, but it was loved so much it hasn’t survived. Highly recommend this if you have fans of Sesame Street (though I can’t find it on Amazon).

4. Wipe off Fun with Mazes. Elizabeth loves mazes so when I saw this in the original post, I had to get it. It is great and we are very happy with it.

5. Playing cards. Elizabeth likes to just play with cards sometimes. She sorts them her own way and seems to have fun. We also recently taught her how to play War, so I thought that would be a fun addition.

6. Dora puzzle.

So that is what is in our boxes. I think I will occasionally add something new into the mix and put things on rotation along with switching up the puzzles. I’m really happy with how it consolidated a lot of miscellaneous things into one spot and instead of being mostly forgotten about, they have a purpose. It seems that only being allowed to play with a toy one day a week makes it really special. So far, so good.
And since we cleared out so much in Elizabeth’s room, we had a whole shelf in the closet to store our new boxes.

Other notes:

1. I bought the boxes at Target and really like them. They have little locks that easily pull up on the lid. Elizabeth can easily open and close them, but they stay closed really well. They were $5.99 each. Duncan suggested getting another one (since there is still room on the shelf). I’m thinking about it- maybe a weekend box. Right now our policy is that she can pick any box on each weekend day, but that is mostly since she is so excited about them and they are so new.

2. I printed the labels from Teaching Mama’s site and they are really cute. I stuck them on the bins with washi tape.

What do you think? Is anyone else going to make some boxes now? If anyone has any other ideas, I would love to hear them.

~Krista

Snowed In

Snowed In

We have had some unusualy heavy snow for Western Oregon these past few days.

I’m loving it. The girls are loving it, too.

I don’t need much of an excuse to be a homebody anyway. More than a foot of snow clinched it. We stayed in, did a puzzle, read books, watched movies, and played with snow.

Duncan and Elizabeth built a snow woman today (Elizabeth said it is a woman).

She was so proud. She picked the rocks from a jar we had inside (since the outside rocks are quite hidden under all that white stuff) and got out the carrot nose.

Duncan and I traded off on holding Claire in the window inside. She got to watch all the excitement from the safety of the warm house. I don’t really have the proper snow stuff for her (shoes, gloves) and she really doesn’t seem to like cold much.

She does love snow though. Each day we brought in buckets of it for he to play with, sometimes in her high chair and sometimes in the tub (with PJs still on!). She goes back and forth between using her hands, a spoon, or just licking it. Such a funny girl.

It looks like we might be losing it tomorrow or the next day, but we are definitely making the most of it right now.

I hope everyone else in it is keeping warm (we have our heat up much higher than normal!) and having fun.

~Krista

The Plague

The Plague

It may not quite be The Plague, but we have been living with our own little version of plague for a couple weeks over here. I’m allowed to be dramatic at this point.

First it was the stomach bug, and I was the only one spared. Then came the sore throat, cough, and cold. I have been the luckiest of all of us and am already better. Claire is also almost recovered.

It is nice to have my happy baby back. The lack of sleep was worse than the sickness and we were all a bit crabby.

Today is the day for disinfecting the house and starting on the Valentine cards for Elizabeth’s preschool class. The perfect day to stay in our pjs, eat soup, craft, and cuddle up. Oh, and watch TV. Elizabeth doesn’t miss the sick day opportunity of watching TV. Dinosaur Train to the rescue.

~Krista

Bounce House Time

Bounce House Time

Oh, my. My kids sure loved this bounce house.

Claire was her usual fearless self and bounced like the rest of them, too.

Sadly, my camera battery died after about three pictures. The rest of the fun will live on in our memories.

~Krista

Cross Stitch Joy

Cross Stitch Joy

Happy New Year! Amazingly I haven’t made any resolutions this year, unless staying the course is a resolution. Things have been really happy for my little family of four and I want to just keep doing what we are doing.

One of the things I have been doing a lot of is cross stitching. Our typical evenings consist of sitting on the couch together after the kids are in bed, Duncan playing a video game and me working on a cross-stitch. It has been so happy and relaxing.

I took a break from my big one for Claire to do a gift for a friend for Christmas, and to knock out a couple little ones. It was so nice to be able to finish some since I have been working on the big one for so long. My only Black Friday purchase this year was two cross stitch patterns from Etsy. I picked a dinosaur and a rabbit. They were nice little ones I could finish in four or five evenings each. I changed the colors they suggested for it (well, I actually used the right color green for the bunny as I had that on hand and liked it).

Here is the little dinosaur Elizabeth has claimed for her room:

Here is the little pink and green bunny for Claire:

The dinosaur is adorable, but I love the bunny most. I still need to iron it and get it framed.

Doing the bunny gave me the courage to learn how to back stitch (which was so easy!). Back stitching is the outside edge going all around. I had been worried about doing it for the first time on the big one and messing up all of those hours of work somehow. A little practice really gave me the boost to get back to the big one and keep working on it.

Speaking of, here is the current progress shot for Claire’s large woodland picture:

I practiced my back stitching more on the deer’s eye, eye lashes, and mouth. Pretty nice so far. I think this one will keep me busy for a while yet.

~Krista

Daredevil

Daredevil

Claire is proving to be quite the fearless toddler. Walking has quickly led to climbing.

Oh my, can she climb. She can climb our step stool up to the counters or couch, she climbs onto the fireplace hearth and reaches for the mounted TV, and she can almost climb into the tub on her own. Box surfing has been a particular favorite over the holidays.

I hope your holidays were as fun as ours. ~Krista

 

Advent, Day 11-24

Advent, Day 11-24

I might be starting to feel like a slave to the advent calendar. “Starting” might actually have been a while ago. I have persevered because Elizabeth loves it so much, but it is sometimes a little hard to come up with the right thing to fit the day. Some days we are a little repetitive. Here is what we have been up to:

Day 11:  Make paper chains. This was super fun for both Elizabeth and myself. They also turned out really well. We did a rainbow one for the dining room and a red/pink/purple one for Elizabeth’s room. I think they will be staying up for a long time.

Day 12:  Make Christmas sugar cookies!

Day 13:  Go to a Christmas party!

Day 14:  Go visit Santa. This got switched to decorate Christmas cookies because Elizabeth did not want to go visit Santa. She professes her love for him, but will not go sit on his lap.

Day 15: Do a new Christmas puzzle.

Day 16:  Drive around after dinner looking at Christmas lights. This was a lot of fun. Also, Snoopy is really well represented in outside Christmas decor.

Day 17:  Go to Zoo Lights! My mom and I took the girls. It was very cold, but beautiful and magical. Loved it. I don’t think we saw a single real animal, but we loved the lights so much.

Day 18: Decorate ornaments. I had two wooden ornaments from Michaels that Elizabeth got to decorate. We put a picture of her in one and a picture of Claire in the other.

Day 19: Watch a Christmas movie tonight. Always good fun.

Day 20: Go on a Christmas photo scavenger hunt. Elizabeth loves to take pictures, so I printed up a sheet of things for her to find and photograph (I used clip art/google images in addition to the words so she could “read” it herself). It was a pretty popular activity.

Day 21: Donate a toy to the fire department toy drive. Duncan took Elizabeth down there to donate and they were closed. Advent fail. We will try to get it there today.

Day 22: Make gingerbread cookies.

Day 23:  Decorate cookies, wrap gifts, and watch a Christmas movie (advent repeat day!).

Day 24 (tomorrow):  Have the family Christmas party, read The Night Before Christmas and The Grinch, watch The Grinch.

I think we did pretty well at it this year. Elizabeth loved it and was excited about it every morning. It is definitely a tradition worth continuing.

We have also gotten into the spirit by doing other Christmas-y things like listening to a lot of Christmas music (often times against Elizabeth’s wishes), drinking a lot of egg nog (Duncan and I), and pulling many ornaments from the tree (Claire).

~Krista

Advent Calendar, Days 6-10

Advent Calendar, Days 6-10

The advent calendar joy continues at our house. Here is what we have been up to:

Day 6:  Set up and light the Christmas candle. Elizabeth and I loved setting this up and listening to the gentle chime. It has been a tradition since a friend gave it to us a few years ago.

Day 7:  Make graham cracker Christmas houses. We had our niece with us for a slumber party and the girls each made a house. My niece’s mouth was stained red from the sprinkles, but Elizabeth was more interested in the frosting.

Day 8:  Color Christmas coloring sheets.  This was very popular. We still had our niece with us and they both had a great time coloring sheets I printed out from Google images.

Day 9:  Open the package (of new pajamas) from under the tree and wrap gifts for others. The girls each got new pajamas and we wrapped Claire’s gift from Elizabeth and our nephews gift.

Day 10: Make Christmas cards. We have started. There has been stamping and cutting and sticking. We will see if these turn out or if we need to reinvent the card for this year.

 

It has proven to be a fun craft even if it doesn’t turn out. We will continue working on them this week to hopefully get them mailed before the weekend. It should be possible since we only mail out about ten.

~Krista

Pom Pom Garland

Pom Pom Garland

My friend Angela from Cottage Magpie came over today. We love to talk decorating and crafting. I was lamenting how I never see any cute pom pom garlands that I like in stores (first world problem, I know). She was shocked I would want to buy one since they are so easy to make. Since I wanted to learn and she was happy to teach we then spent the next two hours making this:

She made one at the same time, each of us working from the opposite end of a skein of yarn.

I love it so much.

I was making it for Claire’s room, but Elizabeth has already claimed it for her room. Good thing I have a whole box full of yarn sitting around, right?

I used the sample ball we made at the beginning of our lesson as a little ornament on our tree (this one is in cotton so it is a little less fluffy than the acrylic blend yarn).

I thought it was really cute so Elizabeth and I made another in pink. Claire has already pulled all the strands from the pink ball. The white one is still holding on, but the tragedy of the pink pom pom has kept me from filling our tree with homemade pom pom ornaments.

At least I can make another garland to hang up high. I might even make some to use in the future as party decorations. A pink pom pom garland for Elizabeth’s next birthday would be very fun (and reusable) decor.

~Krista