Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Posts of 2014!

I consider this blog to be kind of a digital scrapbook of our lives.  I do keep yearly photo albums, but I'm not one to do a lot of journaling or actual scrapbooking so I use this to store memories, as well as provide information for some of the places we visit.  As our family and lifestyle continues to change, so does this blog.  This year I've added more about my fitness goals and physical transformation.  I had some catch-up posts for our Maine vacation, Brian's graduation, and Elijah's baptism.  I've added some tidbits about our experiences gardening, and a few recipes.  And I've recommended about a hundred children's books, and probably shared several hundred photos of my boys. 

I love to look at the statistics (math teacher coming out) and see which posts happen to get picked up.  These were my top 10 posts of the year:

 #10  Elijah:  21 months TIED National Museum of Natural History:  Butterflies
I try to update the boys every so often, and this 21 month one got a lot of view for some reason.  Our information post for the butterfly exhibit at one of the museum's on the National Mall also tied for this spot as the tenth most visited blog post.

#9  April Showers... Bring Tulips!  Burnside Farms
After seeing photos of this place, I knew we'd have to visit this lovely little tulip farm.  We got to take grandma and grandpa with us and it was sweet to watch the boys cutting flowers.

 #8  Little Bennett Campground and Sugarloaf Mountain
We only got one camping outing in this year, and this was it. Just to the west of DC, this itinerary makes for a nice weekend trip for us.

#7  #TBT:  Daddy's Boys
 I love throwback photos, especially those that span decades or are comparisons.  This post is a favorite where you can see that both of my boys, who I don't think look alike at all, both look almost identical to their dad at different ages. 

#6  Birthday Girls!  Baby Doll Sling, Diapers; Tea Crown and Pretend Teabags 
For my nieces that share a birthday in February, I whipped up some little girl toys on my sewing machine.  These diapers are awesome for dolls, and the teabags and crown are nice details for a tea party.

#5  Trick-or-Treat/Moo!
My Halloween costume posts have driven a lot of people to this site, probably because they are totally simple, yet cute options for boys, or coordinating brothers.  Theo's idea for their cow and farmer costumes from this year were no different, and made this list already.

#4  A Peek at the Peak
Being one of the most beautiful times of year around our area, I shouldn't be surprised that this post has gotten a lot of views.  We have loved the Cherry Blossom Festival time ever since we moved to Delaware, and we enjoyed taking some photos there this year and hiking around the blossoms.  This is a great time of year for visitors, if anyone wants to take advantage of our guest room this year it runs from March 20-April 12, with the average peak bloom date being April 4th.  I'm already signed up for the Cherry Blossom 5k on April 12th, so I'm especially looking excited for that.

#3:  Miss Natalie Ann's Quilt
While I know first born kids are normally showered with gifts, especially the homemade type, second born children aren't normally as blessed materially, so I decided to whip up a quilt for each of my "second born" nieces (I really don't have hard feelings from being a second daughter...  maybe I do).  Natalie Ann's quilt got quite a few views, and Emelina Mae's quilt was equally gorgeous, and can be found here.  My newest method of quilting is to just find really beautiful fabric collections and go from there.  I know some people love matching various fabrics, but I don't feel I have an eye for that so I've been sticking to coordinated collections.

#2:  Cool Homemade Toys:  Spinny Speller
 I loved how this simple little toy turned out.  I've struggled with deciding exactly what age kid it is best for, but I think I've decided to continue letting it be a 4-year-old present for my nieces and nephews.  Even though most are not sounding out words at that age, they are learning to spell and write out their own name so I think it's a great toy to work on their individual name.  Theo normally leaves his set to his name on his bookshelf as a decoration.  Then, at 5 or 6 they can really start finding the other words included in the spinny.

#1:  Busy Bags:  Pre-School Math
Sometimes, I get really annoyed at the constant focus on literacy in preschool.  I know it is important, but I think scientific and math concepts that are learned through kids natural curiosity are just as important.  And can be greatly enhanced by some directed instruction in the classroom.  So I'm glad people are looking for pre-school math, and hope to add more ideas for this in the future.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Advent Calendar for a Preschooler: Week 4 Update

While my husband is big on celebrating Christmas through epiphany (or Little Christmas, as Theo has grown fond of calling it), let's admit that life is about to go back to normal when we head back East tonight.  Our tree will probably have to come down due to the lack of watering for a week, and Theo will only have a few more days until he returns to school.  His break sure went fast this year, and Christmas was once again a special time of traditions, family, reflection, and celebration.  We had a couple last activities this week to finish up.

Gingerbread Houses:  After driving all night, we got in on Christmas Eve and wanted to see my nieces right away, so my sister helped me get them over to grandma's house while their mom worked.  We needed Maci to help us build the gingerbread houses we've started building every year.  The kids actually did a lot more this year on theirs, though Eli was mostly into just eating all the candy still.  Maci looked like a pro with the icing bag, and Theodore designed his with important builder concepts in mind.

Walkway of Lights:  A lot of years we do this on New Year's Eve, but we moved it up and did it on a Sunday night this year.  We had to wake the boys up despite it being only 7pm, but once they were awake they enjoyed the lights as always.  Theodore narrated just about every display he saw.  This year they decided to only start the lights by the bridge, which made them a bit more squished together but would make it possible to actually walk through them all (though we drove).  Normally during the hours we go, a donation is requested, but this night it was a specific $5 fee (with a sticker to come back any time).

We actually decorated some more cookies, but I didn't get any of those photos yet.

For all of our advent calendar ideas for Christmas activities with pre-schoolers, click below:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Thursday, December 25, 2014

#THT: Annual Christmas Photo, Her Side




This isn't all of us, but we can't get the other four in the photo since they are in Alaska during Christmas. 

#TBT: Annual Christmas Photo, His Side

While my family traditionally does a morning-of Christmas photo with us normally in pajamas after opening gifts, we are normally a little more spiffed up and presentable for Brian's family photo.  When we first started dating the picture was normally just of the kids, but we've added Brian's parents to the photo in recent years which is nice to have entire family shots.  Unfortunately, this year we didn't manage to get the whole family together at the same time, but I had the photos all ready to go and wanted to go ahead and post this one anyway.

2013:  (First Christmas after Josh and Ravelle were married)
2012:  (First Christmas after Aaron and Emily were married, firsts for Annalyn and Elijah.  Taken in Ohio at cousin Elle's wedding.)

2010:  (First Christmas for Theodore)
2009:  (Taken at Grandpa's house in Ohio)
2008:  :(  Can't find one.  Maybe someone else has this one?

2006:  (First Christmas after we got married, and Mike and Ashley were married)  Closest thing I could find, Thanksgiving at Uncle Clint's.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Calendar for a Preschooler: Week 4, Week 3 update

As we added the pink love candle last week, I was thankful again for Brian bringing the tradition of having an advent log into our home.  We only ever lit candles at church when I was growing up, but we now light them each night as a family at dinner (well, most nights).  It really helps the boys to discuss the different candles (peace, hope, and love so far), and come up with questions they want answered.
Since we got most everything we needed to do done last week, these last few days will just be full of packing, waiting and traveling, as we head back to Indiana for a fun week of seeing family.  I don't think I've ever been so far ahead, and love not having too many last minute things to do.

I'm not making an official calendar for this week, as I know we'll be traveling and fitting in our activities around all our families' plans.  We had our church party on Sunday,  and the last things on our advent to-do-list include: decorating gingerbread houses, seeing the lights in Marion, and watching the Polar Express while driving to Indiana.  

Week 3 Update:
Christmas Pageant:  We started the week with a beautiful Christmas program at church.  Theo made us proud as he quietly, and somberly acted as the third wise man.  Normally, he speeds down the aisles at church, so seeing him march so slowly was amazing.

Dale City Nativity:  On our way home from a party of Brian's colleague up in Maryland, we decided to go ahead and stop at the living nativity that ran for two nights.  We did have to wait in line for a while, but we enjoyed the beautiful scenes again this year.  Here's the link to the experience from last year.

Cookies:  I went a little overboard this year... I think the fact that I have counted calories or done weight watchers for the majority of the year finally caught up to me and I just really wanted to bake.  We did snickerdoodles, Mexican wedding cakes, gingerbread boys and girls, Brian's great grandma's recipes for molasses and sugar cookies (best ever), almond sweets (a new favorite), peanut butter munchies, and oatmeal jumbos.  I learned all about flow icing at a class at the library, and got to experiment with that quite a bit.  We gave a lot of cookies away, froze some, and shared them at several holiday parties.

Parade of the Magi:  Theodore was a wise man for the second time this season, at his pre-school's annual Christmas play.  They parade into the sanctuaury, present their gifts of food to baby Jesus, and then sing songs.  He seems to have his father's singing abilities, but hopefully he'll improve with some more time.  He did keep up with the choreography pretty well.  I'm thankfully he is always the tallest in his class so that he's always first in line and in the back row.  Makes photos a little easier.

DC Train Tour:  I did a separate post for this, see here if you missed it.

To catch our other advent calendars, by week, check here:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Christmas Trains in the City (DC)

My little one is now almost as obsessed with his older brother when it comes to "choo choos".  One of his first words was caboose, he'll always remind you that a tender is hot, and he'll notice every Thomas object that passes him by (backpacks, items on shelves, shoes, etc).  He's demanding choo choo books at night despite our Christmas book theme, and often falls asleep with a train book open on his lap.

So Elijah's especially excited that trains are so entangled with the Christmas holiday.  I wonder how these two things got so mixed up to begin with, but we don't question it around here we just try to enjoy it.  We decided to wait until Brian was off work to head into D.C. to see several train exhibits last Saturday.  Our itenerary:

We took advantage of the free parking metro stations always offer on the weekends, and decide to park and ride the train into the city.  Elijah was pretty excited the whole way:
We needed to get lunch pretty soon, so we started off by checking out Union Station's display.  As far as I've ever found, they only have one set up, but it's a nice one.  And there are plenty of places to eat or even shop nearby if you've still got some gifts to buy.

Next up, we jumped back onto the subway and took it a few stops to the Metro Center station and walked on to the area between the White House and the Washington Monument, known as the Ellipse.  Here you can view the White House's outside holiday decorations, the National Christmas Tree, and lots and lots of trains.  This is probably the most trains I have ever found in one location.  There are also the 50+ trees for each state and territory, adorned with specially made ornaments reflecting each of the states.  Elijah, unbelievably, chose this time to take a nap that he would not be woken up from.  He missed lots of trains, but the rest of us got to enjoy the scene.

We then headed indoors to get some ice cream (my family never passes up ice cream, even in 40 degree weather) and then to warm up in the trains exhibit of the National American history museum.  I've wrote about that exhibit before, here.

Finally, we walked on across the National Mall to the other end to find the U.S. Botanical Gardens.  There was actually a pretty substantial line to get in the train exhibit, but it moved pretty quickly.  The exhibit this year featured different lighthouses all made of plant materials, as well as other landmark buildings.  The exhibit was lit with colorful lighting, and was very magical and enjoyable for kids as well as adults.  We made it through just as the museum was closing.

We then hopped back on the metro at Le'Enfant Station, and headed out.  It was a great day with the boys, and now we are all anxious to head out for Christmas!