Saturday, December 31, 2016

365 Days Photo Challenge

January 1st marks the start of a new year, new resolutions, new "you." Many people view it as a fresh start. Unlike many, I actually don't view it as something other than a new year. However I do make goals for myself and our family each year. At the start of 2016, one big thing I wanted to do was focus on the little things in my life that I am grateful for. All of those little moments that can be easily forgotten but lead up to the big moments.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to challenge myself: take one photo every day that brings me happiness. 365 photos that show the little things  that brings a smile to my face. There were some days that I plainly forgot to post a picture. There were some days that brought me more joy than others. But I did it. As of today, I have 366 photos that made up little moments in life. These photos bring a smile to face, made lasting memories in my life, and even those moments that didn't seem so great at the time, made the year seem amazing.

Obviously I'm not going to post all 366 photos in one post, but you can check out my Instagram to go through all of my photos (if you're not following me on Instagram, you definitely should). Here's some examples of things that brought me happiness this year:

Hikes, art projects, daycare theme days that I came up with, dropping my kids off at school with a towel on my head, drinks, foods that included brunches and dinners with some of my favorites, our pets, wearing sandals in winter, road trips, sliding down a waterfall, random pen marks that created a happy face on my hand, buying frogs in a rainstorm, haircuts, books I've read, things I've Googled for the kids, visiting 31 parks in one weekend, celebrating daycare's and the blog's birthday, weekend excursions, sick minis, and (one of my favorites) breaking down over Halloween costumes.

It may seem simple to some, grand to others, but this is my/our life. It can be easy to overlook certain moments as you think back over an entire year in your life. However as I do so, I'm left with smiles and tears in my eyes as I look back at the amazing memories and moments this year has provided us.

I don't plan on doing my 365 Days challenge in 2017, but I do plan on posting just as many (if not more) pictures so I can look back on 2017 with the same feelings as I am 2016.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Soup Day

This was the latest theme day that we did. I had the older kids in mind for this one, as it was mostly a cooking day but the younger ones enjoyed it as well. The idea for this day came from the big kids this summer, who suggested this theme day for "a snow day or Christmas break or something like that." Soup Day also aligned perfectly with the opening of the new Easy Bake Oven (a Christmas present for the minis and daycare).

The idea for Soup Day was to have the kids help make each soup and everyone try them out. I chose easy soups/recipes that the kids would be able to make themselves (with direction and supervision obviously). Our soup menu was:

  • Fruit soup (breakfast)
  • Chocolate soup (morning snack)
  • Taco soup (lunch)
  • Veggie soup (afternoon snack)

The fruit soup was simple: vanilla yogurt, a bit of orange juice (so it wasn't so thick and more soup-like), and frozen berries.

The chocolate soup was our favorite hot chocolate, topped with a lot of marshmallows, white chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips. I served it in mugs with a spoon. The kids loved this and appropriately re-named the soup Hot Chocolate Soup.

The taco soup was on of our favorites (8 Can Taco Soup) served with tortilla chips, green beans, and a banana.

* A little trick I've learned when serving kids soup, don't give them the runny stuff and don't put it in a bowl. If I had served the taco soup in a bowl, hardly any of the kids would have eaten it. I add this up to kid logic.

The veggie soup was the simplest of all: 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies, 1 can of vegetable broth, and 1 can of water.

For the most part, the kids helped pour and dump ingredients in. I did most of the measuring (no one was interested in it). Wanting to stir everything seemed to be the most popular task assigned while we cooked.

While we waited for the soups to cook in the morning and afternoon, the kids played with the Easy Bake Oven. They made cookies in the morning and pretzels with dip in the afternoon.

I loved that this was something for the big kids to do that made them feel independent yet the younger ones still got to participate.

Week In Review: December 19 - December 23

Here's a quick look at daycare last week:

The kids colored ornaments. This is the first year that we haven't made handmade ornaments (usually thanks to Pinterest) but most of the kids were too young to do some of the ones I had in mind. I already have next year's handmade ornament(s) all planned out though!

The kids used Dot Markers on shocking paper shapes. Check out the video I shared of them dotting away.

With Christmas break beginning for the kids at the end of the week, their energy was through the roof all week evident from their "run over us and see if it hurts us!" and wrestling matches.


We did Christmas grow characters (their favorite part of these is throwing them in the water) and stamping once they were dried.

I ran out of jingle bells (I didn't want to lose the bells out of them and have a little mouth find it) but the kids improvised with Magformers while they sang Jingle Bells REALLY loud!

Christmas shaving cream sensory play. The red was cinnamon scented and the green was peppermint. This wasn't quite as messy as I had envisioned.

Cuddling on the couch with the cat while watching Christmas movies. We watched Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, Little Drummer Boy, and If You Give A Mouse A Christmas Cookie (we watched one a day for three days).

A couple of the daycare Pack n' Plays were looking a tad rough (I realized that one was nearly 9 years old!) so I bought some new pnp's. I went for the simplest Graco pnp (my favorite) and was a tad surprised to see that the overall function of the pnp hasn't changed all. Usually there's little changes to baby equipment that I've noticed over the years, but the pnp in unchanged. Also, I'm in love with this circus design!

The middle mini insisted we celebrate his half birthday. I panicked because I had nothing for him, but I came up with an Oreo cake and a daycare present was turned into his gift (under the stipulation that he has to share with everyone).

Thursday was the daycare Christmas party. The kids decorated waffle cone Christmas trees, ate cupcakes, colored the table cloth (they used it during lunch), had Christmas shaped food all day long (pictures are the Christmas quesadillas), sang Christmas carols, and played the Snowball Fight game.

To keep it safe and NOT smacking anyone in the face, I put the bucket on the couch and had the kids toss it into the bucket. My favorite was the one year olds, who ran it up to the bucket and then shouted "I got it in!"

I made Friday a pajama day. Not only have my days been busy, but our nights have been jammed packed with friends, holiday parties, and school events. I was exhausted. By the end of the week I could do nothing but lay on the couch.

I have been VERY proud of the kids this season. Not only did they listen really well about not touching the tree and didn't bother the wrapped presents at all! Of course, they read all of the tags and could tell me who all of the gifts belonged too.

Friday morning the kids decorated a gingerbread house. I found kits at Toys R Us at the beginning of the season for only $4 a piece. The minis had decorated gingerbread houses at school and with Hubs one year, but this was my first time putting a house together (I let the kids do the decorating). You're never too old to try something new!

It "snowed" (I'm not sure if less than 1/2 of an inch can qualify as snowing, but they happily put on their snow gear and spent three hours outside running and playing (it was relatively warm compared to how cold it had been).

A game of Hedbanz in the afternoon, along with Candyland and Racko.

The fruit Christmas tree (that was requested by the middle mini).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas 2016

I can't decide if I love having Christmas on a weekend or dislike it, but either way we had a long three day for celebrating with family and friends. Unfortunately, we started and ended the weekend with a sick mini. That really cut down on the amount of fun we could have and some missed celebrations. I'm very happy we have the tradition of staying home on Christmas so we got to spend all of Christmas Day together (it was also the day that the oldest sick mini felt the crappiest).

Despite the sick mini, it really was a great, relaxing long weekend. I made sure to capture as much as I could, beginning with Friday evening.

My parents picked up the three minis and Hubs and I got in some last minute shopping. I was shocked to see Valentine's Day and spring items out two days before Christmas. We did get some excellent deals on Christmas related items since everything winter was on clearance (which is funny because I feel like winter hasn't even come to Iowa yet).

It may be out a tad early for my liking, but the Target Dollar Spot had some cute Valentine's items.

I tried to talk Hubs into this giant Disney Princess Barbie set for Elizabeth. I was met with "are you f*cking with me?" He had me take a picture of him taking it out of the cart and back onto the shelf.

Towards the end of our shopping adventure, we got a call that the oldest mini had a high fever, so we wrapped up shopping quickly and headed home. Without going into detail, we'll just share that we ended our night scrubbing the carpet clean from puke stains. We were exhausted and had been looking forward to a relaxing night after the minis went to bed. Obviously life had other plans for us (as usual).

That white ball of fluff in the back of the tree? That's just our cat Sophia, drinking the tree water.

Christmas Eve Day was fairly relaxing. We had planned on it that way, but needed it that way since the oldest mini wasn't feeling well at all. Mostly he laid around and watched Christmas movies (thank you Netflix and Hulu). We started the Santa Tracker early at 10 a.m. The two youngest watched eagerly and squealed with joy whenever Santa hit a new country.

The minis took excellent naps all weekend (yes, all 3 took naps!!). While they napped Christmas Eve, I wrapped presents. I don't like wrapping presents, but I found a way to keep myself entertained with the gift addressing.

For the first time on Christmas Eve the five of us weren't together. The oldest was not feeling up to much and we didn't want him to get extended family sick. Hubs and Max stayed at home, while Harrison, Elizabeth, and myself went to my mom's side of the family's Christmas at my Aunt's. I was worried that Max would be upset about missing out, but he was surprisingly fine with everything, which made it easy for me. I would have felt horrible about leaving if he was upset. The group hugs the minis gave each other before being separated was the only thing that pulled at my heart strings just a bit.

Harrison is a tad attached to cousin Natalie.

Our annual Christmas picture in front of the tree at my Aunt's, minus two.

Waiting patiently for presents to open.

H rockin' his new vest.

Elizabeth helped EVERYONE open their presents, including my parents who got breakable (that's an intense word in our life) glasses. She kept shouting (as my mom held onto it tightly so she didn't drop it), "cups! You got some new cups!"

After my Aunt's house, the three of us looked at Christmas lights on our way home. Every year we head down 5th Street in historic Valley Junction to see the lights, then to the Waterbury neighborhood to enjoy the streets lined with luminaries. We've done this for the past several years (longer than the youngest mini has been alive), but apparently this is the first year she's taken notice to what we were looking at.

Elizabeth: "Mom?"
Me: "Yes Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth: "What are those bags doing on the ground with some fire in them?" (some of them had burned and you could smell it in the air)
Me: "Those are the luminaries. The ones we look at every year in this area...."
Elizabeth: "Oh. This is the first time I have seen them. It's so sad when they burn like that. When we do them, don't have them burn okay?"

When we got home, Max got to open his gifts. His back scratcher  was the first present he opened (and one of his favorite he got).

The cat needed attention too....

So excited for Santa to visit that there was some dancing on the toilet.....

This was the first year in, well, ever, that Hubs and I were actually prepared. We had a good majority of the mini's gifts wrapped and no gifts that needed put together. The minis went right to sleep which meant Hubs and I got everything under the tree in good time AND had time to get the house semi-cleaned up.

The minis are VERY good on Christmas mornings. The youngest mini slept until 8 a.m. and boys had to wait for her (they had only been up for an hour). The scoped out all of the gifts, but did a good job being quiet and not touching the gifts until we were all awake.

But once we were all awake, the insanity began. Gifts were torn open, then played with all day long. We welcomed family throughout the day for more present openings, drinks, and appetizers. We had an excellent day of movie watching (The Secret Life of Pets was great), game playing, Lego building, coloring, and taking naps.

Her first American Girl Doll (Samantha). 48 hours later and the doll's hair is already a mess.

Open up the champagne, pop! Welcome to our house Christmas Day.

Max teaching Elizabeth how to play "chest."

Hubs playing with "the kid's" new toy Sphero

We made the minis pause to get these pictures before they were off playing. I'm really happy we stay home on Christmas because the oldest mini wasn't feeling great and wouldn't have been able to go anywhere. I like it when little things like that align.

Cuddling and watching Secret Life of Pets with the sickie.

A few weeks ago, the middle mini started asking for a treasure chest filled with crystals (random, right?). Santa had already finished her Christmas shopping, but Grandma Sheaffer found one AND filled it with "pirate loot" (play jewelry and coins). I have no idea what his plans are with this treasure chest (and he's the type of kid that always has a plan when he asks for something) but so far it's tucked away safely in his room, where only he can get to it. I'm sure there will be some kind of story featuring this kid and his treasure soon....

Elizabeth taking a smoke break.....if you're confused about this, read here for your explanation.

Several Lego sets were completed, including a Dr. Strange set and the castle from Beauty and the Beast.

Elizabeth's American Girl Doll and Bitty Baby and her doll luggage carrier.

We all took excellent naps Christmas Day afternoon (including me. It was one of those naps where I laid on the couch, closed my eyes, and woke up two hours later toasty warm from snuggling cats. It's been awhile since I've had that kind of nap) so we stayed up late playing games. 

The day after Christmas was a late start (for me at least) after being up a lot of the night with a sick mini. We had a lazy morning playing games before heading to my parent's house for our day after Christmas celebration.

Someone INSISTED on bringing her dolls since they have their own suitcase now.

More presents!

We're VERY excited about our National Park Pass! When trying to decide what to ask for for Christmas, we try to keep in mind things we love to do and any plans for 2017. Of course, we had big ideas of road trips in the new year so we asked for a NPP to take us to our adventures! We can't wait to share those with you in 2017!

Christmas celebrations aren't complete without selfies.

We ended our weekend with a (short lived) dance party before jammies and bed. Can't Stop The Feeling was a perfect ending.

One of their favorite gifts they got this Christmas: matching tiger slippers.

While I could have done without a sick mini, the weekend was very relaxing, which I feel we needed a lot of. There was no working (sometimes hard to accomplish when you work from home), only game playing and quality time together. Only a few more days until we ring in 2017!