Small Hands in the Big World

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Filling the Advent Calendar

"Baby William" four years ago, his second Christmas
Two advent calendars grace our home. One is filled with treats from elves that come every night and tuck goodies inside the doors (the elves know better than to trust that our 3 and 5 year olds would leave the numbers unopened until the appropriate day).  The other calendar is made of felt and has lovely little pockets where I place daily holiday activities.

A friend suggested this a few years ago and it’s been a wonderful way to help stay focused on all the fun, friendship, and love this season inspires. Here is my list so far (I know it’s more than 25 needed for the month but it’s good to have lots of choices) and a preview of what we’ll be up to in the coming weeks:

Make a “Grateful Garland” using paper stars, mittens or stocking shapes (kids pick)

Create paper snowflakes and tape them to the windows

Make hot cocoa with candy cane stirrers

Forage for evergreen boughs and decorate inside

Create colorful paper stars

String cranberries and popcorn

Gather unused toys to share with others

Make edible decorations for the birds and squirrels

Read 5 Christmas stories beside the fire

Sing Christmas carols beside the fire

Make salt dough ornaments

Make a card (or two) and send it to someone special

Poach pears

Roll beeswax candles

Stay up late and sing Christmas songs by the tree

Hang decorations on a tree outside!

Light a candle in honor of Hanukkah and talk about various faiths and celebrations

Make Christmas cards for friends and family

Mail Christmas greetings to family and friends

Paint Christmas ornaments together

Make gift tags

Decorate the Christmas tree together

Make & bake Christmas cookies

Decorate Christmas cookies

Deliver Christmas cookies to a neighbor

Paint everybody's toenails in Christmas colors

Purchase a present to give to charity

Picnic lunch by the Christmas tree

Go out after dark to look at Christmas lights

Write a special letter to Santa

Make gifts for teachers

Festive family disco night!

Go out somewhere special for dinner

Ice cream sundaes for dessert

Make popcorn & watch a Christmas movie

Make a special bookmark for your favorite storybook then read it together

Give your favorite pet a Christmas present

Write a love note and put it under Daddy’s pillow

Build snowmen in front of the Senior Center

Create holiday art/craft bags for kids in hospital

Make Snow Angels

Make snow ice cream (snow + sugar + vanilla + milk)

Sleep under the Christmas tree

Attend a program at library or local nature center

Shop for an adopted family in need

Christmas Crafts! Make paper chains, pom-pom garlands, noodle garlands & more

Plant paperwhites (early for blooms at Christmas)

Make tasty treats for the birds

Family game night

Fondue night

Chocolate Fondue night

Attend a holiday concert or play

Tell a friend at school you think they’re really cool

Recycle some toys to share with others

Read a Christmas book together

Take food to a local food bank

Go see Santa!

Sit by the fire & drink hot cocoa

Roast marshmallows in the fireplace

Make thank you notes before they are needed

Make a list of 10 things we are thankful for. Share with your Grandma!

Hot chocolate & cookies by the fire

Learn a Christmas song and Skype it or call to sing it for someone

Breakfast for dinner while wearing Holiday pajamas!

Christmas cookie play date

Gingerbread house-making party!

Make popcorn garlands for the tree

See a Christmas show

Go for a family hike to find signs of winter

Face painting

Build and decorate a gingerbread house

Make our own wrapping paper (dip cookie cutters in paint)

Wrap presents

Eat dinner by candlelight (celebrate Solstice!)

Take a drive in the dark to look at Christmas lights

Sprinkle Reindeer food (oats + glitter) outside

Put out treats for Santa (and the reindeer)
Let me know if you're interested in a printable version complete with fun little graphics--I'd be happy to pass it along and spread the cheer! Pin It

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decking the Halls

Determined to enjoy all of our Christmas treasures for at least one whole month, we didn’t waste any time decorating our house. Storage boxes were pulled from closets the day after Thanksgiving and our massive tree came down from the attic. Yes, our tree is fake and no, I didn’t ever think we’d have one but have to say that I love not chopping down a tree, fighting with fitting it into the tree stand, making it look straight, keeping it watered, hanging the lights evenly, etc. etc. A fake tree is easy and can be enjoyed for a solid 30+ days with no fire hazard!

Sara and William donned their head lamps and delighted in the adventure of checking out the attic, a section of the house they rarely see. My little lumberjack wanted to carry the tree down from the attic himself but Daddy ended up doing the heavy lifting. It’s unbelievable that no ornaments were broken in the process of emptying the Christmas boxes, the kids were so excited to dig everything out. Ornaments from my childhood (bless my Mom for saving them) and ones that their Daddy made years ago (bless his Mom for saving those), ornaments that the kids have chosen, and personalized ornaments; each one felt uniquely special as we unwrapped them.

Taking advantage of the weather, we hung our outside ornaments and lights too. A couple red-nosed reindeer helped.

Hmmm... "helping?" Time to take this one in for hot cocoa

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leaf Piles

Some families toss a football around after Thanksgiving. Leaf wrestling is more our style.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Adventures of Art Lady

This time around (only my second time teaching art in my son’s Kindergarten classroom) we made Oil Pastel Self-Portraits. Much to my surprise there was a substitute teacher so I knew things might get dicey. Thankfully, it was a pretty straightforward lesson.

I showed them the Mona Lisa as a famous example of a portrait then provided mirrors so they could really look at their own features, a pencil to sketch an outline, oil pastels to color the entire page (background too), heavyweight watercolor paper, and q-tips for blending.

Most of the kids dove right in, studying their faces in the mirror then drawing and coloring. One child was only interested in drawing “transformers,” another got a little lost in working with smudgy intense oil pastels for the first time. He covered one sheet of paper with a few patches of color then started on a new one with just black, telling me it was a rainbow. Finally, when everyone was done, this rainbow child refused to let me take his picture home with me so I could frame it for him. “I have like 29 frames at home,” he told me. Yes, this is where the presence of their lovely, calm and authoritative regular teacher would have come in handy…

Anyhow, here are some of the pieces the kids created and let me take home to mount onto construction paper for them. Few of them remembered to do the background work so I took the liberty of painting a light watercolor wash over them to help them look a little more finished (both sides needed to be painted in order to avoid paper curling).
I love the vivid colors on this one -- she really pressed hard to achieve that intensity from the oil pastels

This young lady was extremely detailed all the way down to the Puma logo on her shirt
This little guy didn't want a self-portrait without light sabers

This clever young lady remembered to do a background and also discovered she could blend multiple colors to get her hair just right

and for the grand finale... my darling son decided to do a nude

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Am Will, Will I Am

“YUM!!!  YUM!!!  YUM!!!” No, that is not the sound of my children hollering with joy about their Halloween candy (they’re actually very quiet when chocolate is being consumed). Some people shorten the name William to just Will but original Sara decided “Yum” was what she’d call her brother. It began as “E-Yum” but morphed into “Yum” more recently. I was beginning to wonder if she just might decide that’s what she likes to call her big bro but it all changed a couple weeks ago.

I documented to very moments when she made this shift in a first-rate interview with Miss Sara herself. Taping was going beautifully along the edge of Jubilee Farm’s hay maze until my fascinating line of questioning was interrupted by a chicken in my face…  

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween, Out

The “welcome skeleton,” plastic pumpkin buckets, and cute little ghoul ornaments are back in their storage boxes. Gone are the glo-sticks, vampire fangs, and spider rings. Three pumpkins remain un-carved but we’re off the hook, they’re merely elegant Thanksgiving decorations now.

I’m actually relieved it’s over. Chasing the kids while trick-or-treating with a mob of neighborhood friends pushed me over the edge, but I can’t let the holiday pass without posting a few memorable moments.
Some of our dear friends threw a wonderful party -- love how the kids are cracking up together here

Who says only pumpkins are for carving? Check out our 'alien tonsils'

Halloween was a day of much costume deliberation at our house -- then ultimately a costume flashback. Sara decided to get cozy in the costume from her first Halloween while Firefighter William did a re-run of last year.

His fluorescent stripes weren't great for pictures but they were the only thing keeping him in my sight on Halloween night (and the only thing keeping me from become extremely anxious) Phew!

I didn't think it was possible but she looks even cuter in this costume this year...
I take it back... look at that little cutie! Ah memories, back in the day when they were super excited to stay home and answer the door and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters

Goodnight Halloween
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Sick Day

Without getting too graphic, I’m just going to say that poor Sara has a tummy bug and it has been a messy day. She began throwing up in the night so her sheets, blankets and pajamas were the first casualties, then my sheets and clothing, plus clean up rags had to be laundered. She seemed better after getting big brother off to school and even asked for toast. That went down fine and gave her a little energy but not enough for preschool (and we didn’t want to share germs) so she tagged along for my much-anticipated appointment with a nutritionist (apparently, I need a professional to tell me to drink more water and stop eating the kids’ mac and cheese or grilled cheese crusts for lunch if I want to lose weight).

Anyhow, it was a good meeting and this nutritionist gave me some great recommendations (along with telling me to drink more water and stop scavenging for food from my children’s plates). Little trooper Sara sat patiently through the meeting and was excited that I brought her a snack in the car… you know where this is going, don’t you? Silly, silly Mommy gave Sara her little Trader Joe’s organic smoothie thinking it would be nourishing for her tummy. Her tummy decided otherwise. Moments after she drank it, driving at 60 mph on the freeway, I hear an awful gushing sound, then another and another and I can’t do anything about it except talk in a soothing voice and hand wipes back to Sara. Talk about a trooper, she was so brave and patient.

I was going to go on about the thankless task of taking apart a car seat and washing every piece, and using a steam cleaner only to be amazed by how long it takes to clean the #@&*%! cleaner when the job is done. I even took a picture of my “tip,” the quarter and penny (plus two plastic pirate coins) found in the wreckage but a sick child changes everything. All I can think about is my sweet Sara Bear asleep in her room. She was exhausted by bedtime but still mustered the energy to negotiate keeping me in her room all night “you stay and I not do throw ups.”  It didn’t work but I sure admire my darling girl’s tenacity.
She'll be back to her happy, healthy self soon
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