Sunday, January 26, 2014

Art and Soul

Patrick enjoys his art class, his Christmas gift from my parents, and has been bringing home some nice pieces for me to display on our magnetic board (just some sheet metal actually intended for use in building HVAC ductwork, screwed up to the wall - like a fridge only BIGGER and things don't fly off when you open the door to get milk). Last week they worked on blending watercolors. Very nice flower!

For his birthday my Kari and Jonathan got him this art kit, it has paints and oil pastels and instructions (they say inspirations) on how to create your own masterpiece. Ta-Da! What would happen if van Gogh had painted when he was 6 and smiley faces were all the rage.

One afternoon at home he busted out a very detailed picture for me NOT to display, he created it specifically to put in his memory book so he could remember what a great artist he was when he was 6 (hence the 6 in the middle of the sky). I have had to ask him multiple times to let me keep it up so I can enjoy (giggle at) it, like the details of trees smashed into the footprints and tiny stick people running away from burning buildings.

Finally, he spent a quick 10 minutes on his backup iPad, the Etch-a-Sketch (currently grounded from the real one since he becomes the world's biggest pain in the neck when it comes to sharing said device) and created a DRAGON. Look carefully, the entire thing is covered in SCALES. His etching skills are not to be believed, we will soon have a show-down with the real-live Etch from Toy Story.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gift giving: the experience

Both sets of grandparents were very sporting in our Christmas wish of toning down the toys, and gifted accordingly.  As I mentioned, we got lots of games from Joe's parents, and last night we had our first official Friday Night Game Night! It went GREAT, the last time we really tried to play games as a family was probably a year ago, and we gave it up for a year because it went so poorly. Now, of course, the kids are a year older and Caroline participated more cooperatively on my team (still not ready to play on her own), and Eli was KILLING it! He really grasped the rules of each game and followed along - he even grasped a competitive streak and declared, "Bonky bonk bonky! Bonk bonk bonk!" whenever he would knock someone back to home in Trouble. We are looking forward to making Friday Night Game Night a long-term tradition, since games are one of the best ways to connect with ornery teens.

My parents gifted "experiences" for each child - they picked a class that each child would enjoy and made a small certificate saying what class, plus some token item to go along with it.  Patrick got art lessons last year and LOVED them, so he got art lessons again this year; his token was a wooden airplane that he could paint and assemble. Eli and Caroline each got gymnastics lessons with an outfit that they could wear to go to them. Caroline has taken this gymnastics thing to heart and will only take off her gymnastics outfit to put on pajamas, to put on a church dress (though that's even a struggle), or to put on a swimsuit as a replacement because her gymnastics leotard is dirty. She told me, "I bewong in gymnastics." Not, "I go to," or "I like," but "I belong" - it sounded like she was declaring her destiny to me! Too bad she has some height in her genes, I seriously doubt a girl destined for 5'8" or above is also destined for gymnastics. Not only does she want to WEAR "her gymnastics" (leotard) every day, she wants to go to class EVERY DAY. When her whining reaches a fever pitch I am forced to get creative, so we have put together some twirlers so she can practice rhythmic gymnastics, and cobbled together a balance beam from books and a 2x4.

I have videos of the kids twirling and balancing, but not pictures - sadly, blogger doesn't feel like uploading any of my videos today. Instead, here is a preview of some actual gymnasts doing rhythmic gymnastics. Very fun to watch :)

Hopefully in the summer I can get the kids excited about synchronized swimming through some clever Youtube video selections!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas 2013

Let's begin 366 days prior to Christmas.

Christmas Eve 2012 was bad and rough and all my fault. In order to escape that this year I wanted to make sure we focused on keeping Christmas simple and focused on things OTHER than ourselves. To get things kicked off right I made a countdown - an advent of sorts, to keep us busy each day and ALSO to get the kids thinking more than "gimme gimme gimme!" We started the first week with Service Week, where we made gift bags for people who serve US in our lives, filled with some fruit, some treats, and a hand-written card. We delivered them to our mailman, trash men, Patrick's teacher, his doctor, the fire fighters, and someone else who serves us but I can't even remember who right now. The fire fighters were really cool - they let the family come into the fire station and the kids got to sit in the fire truck and talk into the radio. Needless to say, it was their favorite Service Gift Bag delivery! The second week of the countdown was Experiencing Christmas - the generic and fun stuff of Christmas! Have a hot chocolate tea party (in Caroline's tea set), make salt-dough Christmas ornaments, watch the Muppet's Christmas Carol as a family, cut out snowflakes, bake cookies... like I said, the fun stuff! The third week was supposed to be focusing on The Reason for Christmas, but by the third week I had run out of steam and kept forgetting to fill the envelopes with activities! Patrick would retrieve an envelope before I was properly awake, so in my groggy state I would proclaim, "of COURSE it's empty, we still haven't finished... cutting out snowflakes!" Happily he accepted that answer at LEAST 5 times. Once I told him it was because dad was in a bad mood and the activity had involved dad, so now it was no longer do-able. THANKS, Mr. Grinch-dad (and whoops, forgetful and finger-pointing mom!).

By Christmas Eve, though, we'd done lots of very fun and thoughtful and giving things, so I was very excited at the way things were shaking out this year! I even had presents wrapped and set out (and up, away from Ethan) AND a special gift for Christmas Eve. A TYPICAL gift, but special to the kids because it came wrapped in shiny paper. About 2 weeks prior Kari alerted me that Wal-Mart had some smoking' deals on pajama sets so I got new PJs for each of the kids - they were $2 apiece! - plus a set for myself. They were so thrilled that they to to wear their PJs on our drive around to look at lights on Christmas Eve, I thought it was a "win," even if it was pretty generic.
Cutest dude ever.
Spiderman, meet Cutest Dude Ever.
Skylanders, meet Spiderman and Cutest Dude.

Throw Hello Kitty into the mix, and you've got a party!
Our after-Christmas gift was haircuts for these boys! Looking pretty shaggy here.

Christmas morning. My one picture, all super-fuzzy - wah-wah. Notice the light coming in the windows - we did not encourage anyone to get up early, and they obliged by sleeping until 7:30.

I meant to replace our stockings but didn't get around to it, and then couldn't remember WHY I meant to replace out stockings until Santa had a very difficult time stuffing oranges into them. It was such a tight squeeze the kids about got orange juice instead! Here's Eli wrestling his out. Good thing he loves wrestling.

Patrick originally asked for a Colossal Squid toy - he really likes the documentary on them and has watched it a number of times - so I bought this highly-rated posable squid MONTHS ago. Then he changed his mind and wanted a remote control dinosaur (which doesn't exist), and I also had on hand an electronic dragon, so he got both. I was very pleased that upon opening the squid he remembered he had asked for it, and he was SO EXCITED that Santa had remembered, too! That jolly old fellow doesn't miss a beat, does he?

All those toys were Santa's fault, I'll have you know. I wanted us to use our talents as gifts for each other this year, take the focus off toys and money and really GIVE, so I made each of the kids a personalized "corny" -  a small pillow filled with corn that they can heat up in the microwave. Sounds random, but I have a corny of my own and they would constantly fight over it when really I wanted it for myself! Now we are all satisfied. Caroline's is Hello Kitty (like her new pajamas, which she isn't wearing in these pictures - she prefers footed pjs. But hey, they were $2), Eli's is blue with construction machines on it, Patrick's is black with neat red flames all over it, and Ethan got the shaft and didn't get one. Caro and Eli made good use of their cornies by providing comfortable beds for horny toads and crocodiles.

While Joe and I stuck mostly to our homemade gifts, this was an exception: a dinosaur game! You have to sneak eggs out from under a leaf and hope the big dinosaur doesn't attack! Good times.
We ended up getting MANY awesome games, it was a challenge trying to try them all out in one day! We've decided we need to declare every Friday night an official Game Night so we can enjoy all these games, and each others company, for year to come. And THAT is a good Christmas gift!

All the kids received awesome play-doh accessories (which is great, we are HUGE play-doh fans around here), and Patrick immediately got to work making Mr. Bill.
"Ohhhhh Nooooooo! He's gonna be mean to me!"