Monday, December 27, 2010

Boredom Busters

Written for Triad Mom's on Main

I don't know about you, but my kids get antsy when they are stuck inside and can't get all their extra energy out. With the snowy weather we've had lately, I've been thinking a lot about this and so I compiled a list of some rainy day ideas that we use to beat boredom at our house.

X Marks the Spot

My daughter has a game she likes to play. She'll get my husband to draw a "map" of our house on a dry erase board and then he hides an object somewhere in the house. He marks an X on the location of the object on the map and we see how fast she can find it. This requires her to demonstrate map-reading skills, including following directions, judging distances, and reading a legend (if he includes one). We actually haven't played this one in a while, but I saw something recently that reminded me of it so we might hit up the Target dollar bin for some prizes and break out the dry erase board again soon.

Memory Tray

I place 10 to 20 various objects that can be found around the house on a tray and I give my daughter one minute to look at the tray. Then I cover it up and see how many of the objects she can list back to me. Next we switch. She takes a turn finding the objects around the house and puts them on the tray for me to look at while she times me. I list back to her as many as I can remember. This tests our memory and my daughter gets to practice her time-keeping skills. Not surprisingly, she often remembers more of the objects than I do!

Cleaner Than Play Dough

This one really works best for preschoolers, but I will often give my four year old a quirt or two of shaving cream and let her play with it on our island bar. It's very easy to clean up with only a wet rag and as an added bonus, she smells lovely afterward.

Thumbprint Art

Grab an ink pad and make thumbprint art. Kids of any age can do this if they have a little imagination. Ed Emberley has some wonderful examples on his site and there are a nice variety of his books at our local library. Plus, thumbprint art makes a great gift in cards, bookmarks, and on gift wrap!

Kids in the Kitchen

Rainy days are some of the best days to whip up a kid-friendly recipe. We've made trail mix, whale sandwiches, chocolate dipped Oreo's made to look like pumpkins or Easter Eggs, Tic-Tac-Toe pizzas, etc, etc. There are lots of ideas all around the internet but most of our successes have been making things that we would already typically be making and just adding a kid-friendly aspect to it, like cutting the cheese into shapes for a pizza.

Friday, December 24, 2010


My Pummelvision from c525600 on Vimeo.

I saw this on Zoot's blog and I thought it was really pretty cool.  I don't use flickr or tumblr so I had to put  Facebook as my option for where it should pull pictures from and I wish there had bee a way to only do this year like Miss Zoot did.  Anyway, it's still pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

fourteen months

Dear Joshua,

Happy fourteen month birthday to you today!  Little Stinker.

Ho, ho, ho comes to see you in just a couple of days.  I don't think you'll know what to do with yourself anymore when people stop asking you "What does Santa Claus say, Joshua?" because you've walked around this whole month forming your tiny little mouth into a perfectly round circle and sucking in enough air to say Ho! Ho! Ho!  Jonathan and I have decided that we're going to take the picture of you sitting on Santa's lap at the mall with us everywhere this Christmas just to let everyone see you walk around with it and point to Santa saying, "Ho ho ho!"

One night earlier this week we were checking out in Harris Teeter and you saw a Santa helium balloon for sale at the register.  You got very excited and eagerly pointed, asked me please could you have it/touch it/hold it/whatever said, "Ho ho ho!" over and over again.  The cashier got your a Harris Teeter balloon and you were pacified, but oh how you wanted that Santa balloon for a brief time.

When we visited Santa at the mall I truly thought you were going to grant us one of those priceless family mementos in the form of a picture with the toddler screaming his heart out positioned carefully on Santa's lap.  I even warned the photographer as we approached that you were not going to like me walking away from you there.  Once again you surprised me.  You sat hesitantly, but you sat there listening to your sister talk to Santa and looking curiously at the photographer as he waved silly toys at you.

Praise God we had no ear infections this month and not really any sickness after you got over that forever long cold just after Thanksgiving.  You've been a mostly happy little boy.

You are so empathetic and whenever sister starts crying you look at her inquisitively.  You show great concern always about Julianna's feelings.  But you can scream with the best of them when she takes one of your toys out of your hands.

Even though you still won't eat squat, you use a spoon so well when you do eat that I marvel at your skills.  I don't know when you're going to start teaching sister how to eat with a fork or spoon, but I hope you get on that soon, Buddy!

You're not scared of the vacuum cleaner like your sister was at this age and you really surprised me one day when I grabbed a kitchen towel to wipe up a cup of water that Jules spilled and you went over right behind me to grab the other towel and help Mommy wipe up the mess.  Nevermind that you walked all through the water.  I'll take your help any day, baby.

You flirt with women we see out at restaurants and whenever we're around family members you always prefer to go to the older men.  It's really funny that you have distinct preferences, but I guess that's what makes individual you.

The only words that you will say continue to be Dada, Mama, ball, bye, and occasionally NahNah which we think means Julianna.  You have however, added the word "No" to your vocabulary recently.  You shake your head to go along with that one and if it weren't for the enthusiasm with which you do it, it would certainly drive me crazy.

I know I sound like a broken record, Joshua, but you are ALL BOY.  I've lifted you off of the coffee table a hundred thousand times the past few weeks and once you figured out how to push a small chair over to the couch to get up on the couch and grab pens and pencils off of the end tables I knew I could forget sitting down for one minute.  Climbing is the name of the game for a fourteen month old boy apparently and you've spent the better part of the month with bruises on each cheek and now a slight black eye from falls you've taken. 

And speaking of pens and pencils, being in preschool has really helped you learn a lot about coloring and holding a crayon, pencil, or paintbrush. If you see your sister holding any sort of writing utensil you furiously sign please over and over again until we let you have one too and then to my surprise, you use it properly 99% of the time.

I really appreciate the early mornings with you because they contain the few precious minutes when you want to be held and cuddled.  You love to sit in my lap when you wake up in the mornings and drink your milk while holding your blanket.  If I'm rushing around getting ready you follow me everywhere and the first chance you get whenever you see me squatting down you come over and back up as if to sit on my lap, even if I'm just doing something like putting on my shoes only to get right up again.

There is no doubt that you have a sweet, sweet spirit.  You are loving and show your love for us daily.  You eagerly reach out to hug on sister when she gets down on your level, you pile on daddy when he's laying in the floor, and you reach your arms out to go to me no matter who is holding you at the moment.  Don't ever stop loving, Joshua.  We'll certainly never stop loving you.  Even when you destroy my kitchen in a heart beat.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

it's lovely weather for a carriage ride together with you

Through Groupon I purchased a gift certificate to Camel City Carriage Company for a carriage ride in downtown Winston-Salem.  We used it last Friday night and it was a lot of fun.  We bundled the kids up and held them close as our horse took the carriage leisurely down Fourth Street.  Doc was our horse and Ginger was our "guide".  Our carriage was rather full as I guess this is a popular time of year for the company.  There was a group with two adults and four high school girls riding with us.  It was a chilly 41 degrees that day and I'm not sure how low it had gotten by 8pm that night, but I'm sure it was already below freezing.  Fortunately, we had blankets to cover our laps with.  Here are the few pictures we got.


Monday, December 20, 2010

on gray (or is it grey?)

A few years ago I noticed my first gray hair.  I think it was right after Julianna was born.  (coincidence? he he heee)  It totally took me by surprise.  Not the hair itself, but the simple fact of how much it bothered me.  I never thought I would mind my hair turning gray.

Anyway, I really, really hated seeing the gray hairs sticking up.  I hated finding one on my shoulder.  I hated seeing them coming up out of my part on the top of my head.  I don't think it was so much the color that bothered me as it was the coarseness of the hair which made them stick up tall and completely noticeable. 

You see, I have never dyed my hair in my life.  I've never had highlights or lowlights or even used temporary home hair-color.  I probably sprayed my hair with some of that spray-paint hair stuff a time or two when I was younger, I don't really remember, but I know I've never colored my hair.

So it's taken me a while but I think I'm finally getting to the point where it doesn't bother me at all.  I get more and more grays every day, but I hardly even notice them anymore.  I could be wrong, but I think I'll like it even more when the majority of my hair is gray instead of mostly brown with some gray speckled throughout.

Now my thoughts are more along the lines of wanting to embrace my natural changing hair color always.  Honestly, I'm pretty disappointed in myself for even flinching at the gray to begin with.  I hope to make it the rest of my life with an appreciation for the beauty in my natural hair.  We'll see.

What do you think about your own hair?  Is it gray?  Is it falling out?  What do you like and dislike? 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas lights

Last Saturday night we rode to Greensboro to see some lights.  Julianna had been begging to return to Tanglewood's Festival of Lights, but we (translate: I) couldn't see paying $15 to take our Suburban through a few miles of lights that we've seen half a dozen times already.

I had heard somewhere about a neighborhood in Greensboro called Sunset Hills that had a lot of houses with some sort of "ball" lights on display so we decided to check it out.  It was beautiful.

Here's my crappy cell phone pics from inside the car.  You can click on the pics to enlarge them, but still.  They don't do it justice

Fun stuff!  Check it out if you're in the area.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

North Carolina Digital Library

I love to read. I wouldn’t call myself an avid reader, but that’s just because I don’t have as much time to actually do it as much as I’d like. Nevertheless, there’s not much I enjoy more than losing myself in some sort of fictional story.

Ever since my kids were born I’ve struggled even more with finding the time to finish a good book. Beyond summers at the beach I never could squeeze in even the most casual of chick lit. Then my husband somehow got me hooked up with the audio books provided by our local library.

At first I was skeptical. I don’t consider myself to be an audible learner and I thought I’d have trouble concentrating on audiobooks since I had when I gave them a try once before. For some reason now I find it a lot easier. Maybe it’s because having children made me a better multi-tasker or maybe it’s just because I have given up on catching every. single. word. in every story I read, but anyway the NCDL has been a blessing for me because it’s brought me back to “reading.”

Here’s how it works: Anyone with a Forsyth County library card can go online and check out four audiobooks at a time through NCDL. You can browse the digital library collection in a way that is similar to browsing books online at places like You can download these things in a matter of minutes and have them on your computer to play while you’re folding laundry. Or you can transfer them to your iPod to listen to while you exercise – actually, who am I kidding? – you can listen to them on your iPod in the car while you shuttle kids around. The point is that the audiobook is just as portable as a hard copy.

Each digital file can be “checked out” for one week. After that the file is no longer accessible. You can add your name to a wait list for the more popular books and most lists are not long at all. You are notified via email when a book becomes available. If you don’t finish a book in the seven days you’re allowed to have the digital file you can always check it out again or if you don’t reconnect and sync your iPod to your computer you can continue to play the file until you finish the book.

At this rate I can easily finish a book in a week and it’s such a stress reliever for me to get lost in that storytime again. One day I look forward to actually reading again, but for this season of my life, digital books work for me.

With all of the eReaders that are becoming popular these days, I suggest giving the NC Digital Library a try first and seeing how you like it. You’ll have access to thousands of books instantly and you’ll save a lot of money in the process. Find out more by visiting

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

live nativity

Sunday night we went to a nearby church that had a live nativity.  Given Julianna's love for nativities I knew she would enjoy it.  Plus, this seemed like a good year to find a church with a live one because it seems to be the year where materialism has really clicked with Jules and even with myself getting wrapped up in the presents and other "stuff" instead of the birth of our Savior.

Well anyway, it was cold.  I mean FREEZING cold.  And raining.  We kept hesitating about whether or not we should attempt it or not.  And we were dressed up before going to Jonathan's grandmother's annual Christmas party so when we got there we waited in the car since there really weren't many people out at all.

While we were waiting we kept hearing the donkey braying and we watched the cow eating some hay.  Josh had no idea what was going on, but he was definitely interested in the animal noises he heard and why we were just sitting there in the car.  Then they let the sheep out and Julianna got so excited she couldn't sit still.  She was climbing all around in her seat.

When the characters finally came out and the story started, we tried to watch from the car, but eventually Jules and I jumped out of the car and went to stand with the other people to listen to the story.  Jonathan and Joshua stayed in the car and they could hear pretty well from there, they just couldn't see everything.

As we stood outside the rain turned to snow and it was almost magical.  I'll be honest.  It was almost so cold that my brain couldn't function properly, but I've found myself reflecting back on the story several times since then, thinking about what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph traveling all that way and freezing cold themselves. I've wondered about the wise men following yonder star and King Herod being a "bad man" as Julianna put it, but basically just a man who was afraid of a little baby taking his place as king of the Jews.

We had to get back in the car before the play was over, but I'm so glad we heard what we did.  I am grateful for so many things.  Today I am mostly grateful for a fresh perspective.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

for unto us a child is born

Both my mother and my mother-in-law have a nice collection of nativity sets.  We also have a considerable number of aunts, grandmothers, and great aunts who have their own selection of nativities.  Early on Julianna developed a fascination with the manger and the baby Jesus.

When I got out one of my nativity sets from when I was a kid, it entertained her for hours.  She would pick baby Jesus up and kiss him gently.

Julianna's enthusiasm encouraged people to give her more and more nativity scenes. This Christmas we have no fewer than nine nativities around the house and most of them are played with daily.

I often find them like this:

Or like this:

And the ones in my mom's house always get rearranged so that everyone is looking at Jesus like this:

Recently, we got a little finger puppet set from Oriental Trading Company and Julianna would get behind a chair and put on a show for us using Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the three Wise Men.  She would exclaim, "What a precious baby!" and then the puppets would give him a kiss.

I don't want to forget these moments.

For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 13, 2010

party time

Jonathan's mother is one of those unfortunate souls with a birthday during Christmas week.  This year she will celebrate a milestone birthday and we wanted to give a surprise party in her honor.  We got the fellowship hall at her church reserved and talked with her Sunday School class about arranging their "Christmas party" for the same night.  We mailed invitations to about fifty or sixty families, ordered a cake, and with Jonathan's grandmother's help we got old pictures of her to display and made lots of finger foods for everyone to enjoy.

waiting for Mamaw to arrive

When she got to the church she knew by the amount of cars that something unusual was going on.  She was hesitant to go inside and once she did, I think she was pretty surprised that everyone was there for her, especially since her birthday is still a couple of weeks off.

There were a lot of people there and I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time. The kids were running around and the adults were eating and talking.

I don't think she was too upset that we pulled one over on her.  At least I hope not!

Happy birthday, Karen!

Friday, December 10, 2010

teacher gifts

As a teacher, my students bring a considerable number of gifts to show their appreciation before they leave for Christmas vacation. Now that my children are in preschool, my experience has made it a lot easier to know what to buy for their teachers. Here’s my two cents on the subject.

I always get lots and lots of lotion, mugs, hot cocoa, and notepads for Christmas. If you are going to go this route I would suggest adding a personal touch to the gift such as including a personalization on the notepad (Vistaprint is a very inexpensive source).

I had one student who gave me a paperwhite bulb planted in a cute pot every year. Others have given small poinsettias or bamboo plants.

Dry erase markers, notebook paper, index cards, and boxes of tissue make great gifts for the classroom that any teacher would be happy to not spend their own money on. Especially with the recent NC budget cuts, supply-type gifts are greatly appreciated!

Some of the best handmade gifts are ornaments, scarves, and homemade cookies. Of course, teachers appreciate handwritten notes from their students. These are special treasures on those rough days in April and May.

One of the best *purchased*gifts I ever received from one of my students was a small pottery bowl. It was very practical and useful.

Other practical ideas include kitchen linens, seasonal Pampered Chef cookbooks ($1), stationary and stamps, or a frozen meal like a homemade chicken pie.

Target and Starbucks gift cards are great even in $1 or $5 amounts. They all add up!

Another of my favorite ideas came from a family with multiple children in the same school. The mother checked with the administration and then volunteered to supervise each child’s class at lunch one day. It only took a little over an hour of her time on her own lunch break and the teachers got to enjoy a duty-free lunch. They weren’t required to open anyone else’s milk or to ask anyone to pick up their trash and throw it in the garbage. I’m sure any teacher will agree that’s about the best Christmas present you can ask for.

From the perspective of a middle school teacher who’s students have seven or more teachers each, we know that it can all add up to a lot of money. Therefore you should always remember that no matter what you give to your children’s teachers this year they know that it’s the thought that counts.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the weather outside was frightful

Julianna and I had a quick ten minutes in between two Christmas celebrations last Sunday so we quickly drove to downtown Kernersville to watch a bit of the parade.  Jonathan was at home so that Josh could nap so Julianna and I took a chance at finding a parking spot downtown real fast and then running to the edge of the main street.

Other than at Disney World, it was the first parade that Jules had been to.  It was so extremely cold and like an idiot I did not have a coat.  I was driving Jonathan's car so I looked through the trunk and found an extra T-shirt and thermal underwear top and put it on over my shirt.  Fortunately, Julianna did have her thick coat on.

We found a parking spot one block away and hurried to the edge of the street just in time for the parade to go by.  The crowd was not too thick, probably because it was so cold, so we got right up to the front.  We saw lots of old cars, fire trucks, police cars, dancers, marching bands, and cheerleaders.  We also saw a jump-rope squad, the mayor, and some bag-pipers.  In that first picture up there is one of my dad's old friends who was elected several years ago to the NC House and the second picture is of students from Oak Ridge Military Academy.

We stayed for about the first 15 minutes until we could no longer take the cold.  It was the perfect little parade and just the right amount of time for a 4 year old.  It reminded me of the days in high school when we were required to participate in the parade each year for our dance team.  I hated it then, but it seems like such a fun part of starting the holiday season for a small town.  I'm glad we found a small amount of time for the parade this year.

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