Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween (or any holiday) Treat Sorting

Happy Halloween!

E-Bear had a great time making treat bags for his preschool Halloween party yesterday.  Our concept was nothing super original, but it was simple enough that he could do it almost entirely himself.  It was a great sorting activity, and it gave him a huge sense of accomplishment.  He was so proud to bring in his bag of treats to share with his friends today! 

Sitting with him as he worked on his task, I realized that this concept can be adapted for almost any holiday or treat-inspiring activity.  We will surely to do this again.  

(Equal numbers of:)
Mini paper muffin baking cups
4-5 types of mini candies in different shapes or colors
plastic wrap or plastic baggies

First, I helped E-Bear set out the correct number of muffin cups for the number of treats we needed.  
Next, we counted out equal numbers of the four candies we would be using and placed them in a big pile.  
We used:
candy pumpkins
candy corn in two colors, chocolate and original
miniature tootsie rolls

Then, it was time to sort!  E-Bear put one of each type of candy in each muffin cup until he had used up all the candy.  He did a great job!

Once the muffin cups were filled, E-Bear put each cup into a bag.  I helped him fold over the top and he put on the sticker.  Mission accomplished!

We were careful to save a few candies to enjoy together in celebration.  Our favorites were the candy pumpkins!

Happy treating!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New life in a new house

 Welcome to our new home!
We'd like to give you a tour of our space.  We are so grateful for it.

We'll greet you in the living room when you arrive.  With our new IKEA lights, it is quite cozy!
The french doors open into the playroom,

which is where you are likely to find the bears.
There is lots of learning and playing to be done in here!

If it is time for a meal, or arts & crafts, we'll lead you to the dining room, right off of the living room.
Here, the bears are often hard at work.

The sliding glass door lead from the dining room to the porch.  From there, you can see our backyard, freshly raked by G-Bear and E-Bear.  The cars are tucked in the garage, leading to the alley.  What a treat to have the cars undercover!

Come back in, and you can leave your shoes on the mat by the backdoor.  Then, come into the kitchen.

I love the south-facing windows that look out into the backyard.  
I can watch the kids playing outside while I cook.  

Behold, our breakfast nook, lunch spot, work desk, playdough center and otherwise all-purpose kitchen counter.  Many nights, we just squeeze together on the stools and eat dinner here too!  The bathroom location is also quite handy.

Time for a look upstairs.
G-Bear said she didn't like the stairs at first.  Too much "up and down for me, Mom," she said.
I think they are lovely.

We'll show you the bathroom where you can freshen up,

and then we'll move down the hallway.

You'll find our room first.  I love the color of the walls, so soothing.  We use the walk in closet as our nursery, which Buddy Bear considers palatial (compared to his bathroom bedroom in our apartment!).

Down the hall is the guest room.  There's not much to look at.  The bed doesn't yet have mattress, and you can see that I am still comparing a duvet cover to see if it matches the walls.  Nana, I promise it will be up, running and super cozy in time for a visit from you!

The bears will be excited to show you the new bunk beds in their room.  They also have a nice reading spot, thanks to the lantern light and rug from our trip to Ikea.  It suits Spiderman quite well, don't you think?

Last but not least, we can take you downstairs to show you the basement, or "Kid's Club," as the bears like to call it.  They assure us that adults are allowed, as long as they are friends.  It's the perfect place to let out some steam!

Thanks for visiting.  We hope to see you soon!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Doctor is IN

Remember this guy?

T's first day of residency.

Today, T has been at his new job for two weeks.  Hallelujah!  Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.  We are so thankful to be entering this post-residency phase of life.

Belated, here is our front step photo from his first day.  I told him he looked very trustworthy, definitely someone to whom I would recommend patients. :)  

As our kids grow up and have their own first day jitters, it will be fun to pull out these pictures, and others like them, and remind our bears in real terms that "we can relate!  We've been there!"

So far, the beginner jitters have been manageable, as T has a great work environment and supportive co-workers.  I have a feeling he'll be hitting his stride sooner than he thinks.

As we round the two week mark, we remember to give a big "Thank You!" to all of our family, loved ones, supporters and educators who have helped our family get to this point.  Thanks to the love and support of so many, T is off to a great start!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Grocery Bag

This is a big week!  With Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Days all in one week, there will be plenty of excitement in our evenings.  We need a good menu plan to keep up.  Here are my dinner ideas for the week.

Day One
Hamburger stroganoff from Cooking Light Magazine
with egg noodles and a green salad
This is a quick and delicious weeknight dinner, perfect for colder weather
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
with homemade rolls
A great slow cooker chicken soup.
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
with basmati rice and apple slices
This will be our new recipe for our week.
Photo and recipe from Fine Cooking

Day Four
with homemade bread
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Red lentil dal by Madhur Jaffrey
with basmati rice, roasted cauliflower, and pears
This is one of my favorite, easy Indian dishes.  The kids love it too (without the chilies).
Recipe by Madhur Jaffrey
Photo by Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Brisk Week

This week was brisk in many ways.  It has gone by quickly (is it Friday already?!), and it has also been CHILLY.  Yesterday, we welcomed our first snow flurries.  Of course, nothing stuck to the ground, but there were unmistakable flakes falling to the ground.   Never mind the fact that it was eighty degrees in North Carolina yesterday.  Here are my favorite memories from the week.

Our last glorious day of MEA vacation.  Who knows what we did?  Who cares?  
We were all home together.  It was wonderful.

Back to school, back to the routine.  *Sigh.* With the big bears back at school, Buddy Bear and I made the most of it and snuggled on the couch for some story time.

On Wednesday, T got done with work early. We made a family trip to Ikea to do some serious home improvement shopping.  Two hours (!) into our trip, the kids had already watched half of Toy Story on a TV in the lighting department, and there was still no end in sight.  T offered a break and dinner upstairs in the cafe, and we took him up on it.  We watched the rain pour down from our window seating as we dined on meatballs, mashed potatoes and free (Wednesday evening special!) dessert.  Refreshed, we finished our epic trip with success and made our purchases:
A rug for the kids' room
Lantern lights for the playroom
Lamps for the living room 
Reading lights for G-Bear and E-Bear's beds
(seriously, you would have thought we were living in the dark ages)
A bedspread for the guest room.

Thursday was a cold, windy, rainy (and snowy!) day.  It was a perfect morning for the kids to wake up to a house full of new light!  Our house was warm, cozy and illuminated, just in time for the stormy weather.  Buddy Bear found his new favorite spot, sitting on the kitchen floor in front of the heater.

Today we enjoyed a playgroup in the morning and a house full of G-Bear's friends in the afternoon.  Once again, I was grateful for our new lighting!  Even more so, I am thankful for the new friends we are making, each one of us, despite only being here for eights weeks.  

Did I mention that we also got a new baby cousin this week?  Way to go, Aunt K!  

This weekend we'll be carving pumpkins, visiting with friends, rooting for Alabama and preparing for the end of October.  How is it possible?   Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of each day, whether brisk or not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grocery Shopping with Buddy Bear

This weekend, T took the kids grocery shopping while I was at a conference.

As they walked into the grocery store, Buddy Bear made a b-line for the cereal aisle.  He plucked a box of bite-sized maple-sugar shredded wheats off the shelf and clutched it to his chest.

Buddy Bear walked around, clutching that box to his chest, for the rest of the shopping trip.  He has become quite the intrepid shopper!  T made the wise choice to buy that box of cereal, regardless of how many breakfast choices we had at home.  He was barely able to pry it out of Buddy Bear's hands to pay for it at the check-out counter.

Thanks to Buddy Bear, we have plenty of shredded wheats for the week.  I am glad he voiced his preference so clearly!   And, kudos to T for manning the weekend shopping trip.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

MEA musings

The Minnesota MEA vacation is arguably my favorite school holiday of the year.  A five-day weekend in mid-October is heavenly. Since there are no family or social expectations for how we spend our days away from school, we get to take them at our own pace and spend them however we choose.  What a rare treat!

This year we have enjoyed:

a weekday pancake breakfast,
a "pj day," as requested by G-Bear,
two trips to the YMCA swimming pool,
a dinner out with GG to celebrate T's first week of work,
two mornings of coloring and arts & crafts around the dining room table,
an episode of Sesame Street,
an afternoon story time marathon,
an afternoon game of Sequence,
making pumpkin muffins with Daddy,
and a family dinner party with new friends down the street.

We still have two days to go!  Three cheers for days off from school, the opportunities for family time that they offer, and making the most of the time together.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From my garage hideaway

Today, I was fortunate to have a babysitter come and play with the boys for two and a half hours while G-Bear was at school.  My To-Do list has grown out of control over the past few weeks, and I had demonstrated a sufficient inability to tackle it during either waking or sleeping hours.  Two and a half hours to myself would be precious as gold.  I was determined to make the most of it.

As I snuck out of the house, I contemplated where to stage my To-Do list attack.  Admittedly, I should have planned a location the night before, or at the very least before my feet crossed (unaccompanied, whoo hoo!) across the threshold of our house.  Mea culpa.  In any event, with much to accomplish, I needed four things:  a dry seat (it had started to rain outside), my phone, my computer and an electrical outlet (because, of course, my computer battery was about out of juice.  Perhaps a bit of forethought would have helped here too?).

Here is where the story starts to get ridiculous.

By this point, I had made it to the garage, and, impatient that I hadn't yet made a decision about where to locate, compared the venue finalists in my head.

The University within walking distance?
Veto.  Threat of rain too great.  Can't get the electronics wet.
The Panera within driving distance?
Veto.  I am too cheap to pay for a bagel, and I already had breakfast.
Okay, how about sitting in the car and working until you decide where to go?
Veto.  The car has a dry seat but no electrical outlet.  I must have an outlet.

I groaned with exasperation over my indecision.  I had already wasted 2 minutes of my precious 150 in this argument with myself.  It was time to take action.

That's when I spotted it:  the large blue cooler in the corner of our garage.  The garage door was open and the incoming daylight reflected off of it like a homing beacon.  On the wall above the cooler was an outlet.  Eureka.

So that's how I spent my glorious babysitter morning, folks:  sitting on a cooler in the corner of my garage, the computer on my lap plugged into the garage wall, typing away like a hermit hiding from civilization.  I am proud to say I have at least three crossed-off, To-Do list items to show for it.

I would feel more ashamed, accept for the fact that when my sister heard about my ridiculousness she confessed that she too had a babysitter come over this morning and while I was hiding in our garage, she was trying to hide under her covers in her bedroom.  Ahhh, at least I'm not alone.

This may be a sign that I should hire a babysitter more often.  Or, at the very least, fish around in my car for a spare $0.89 and by a bagel at Panera next time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We love Disney

The magic of Disney was calling.   

Meeting with Cinderella

We couldn't stay away.  

Enjoying the newly re-opened Dumbo

Thank goodness we didn't.

Smiling with Tigger and Pooh in Christopher Robin's room

Yes, friends, we made our return to Disney World.  We know, we might be addicted.  

Thanks to a friend's wedding, T's late start date at work, an understanding Kindergarten teacher, and some super, off-season Disney deals, we were able to steal away on a last-minute Disney vacation.  What a great way to spend a week following T's return from North Carolina!

Compared to Minnesota, it was H.O.T. in Florida.  We were sweaty messes in the humid heat, but it made for some awesome afternoons by the pool.

The weather also made water rides seem like a huge treat.  The kids rode Kali Rapids three times before finally convincing me to take the plunge with them.

Can you tell that I was so glad I did? 

Thanks to some great Disney deals, our dining plan was free (see why we love Disney in the off season?).  We enjoyed breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, and the Bears munched on coffee cake while we watched the morning parade.

Breakfast at the Magic Kingdom
We also enjoyed a night at the wonderful Spirit of Aloha dinner show at the Polynesian.  The hula dancers were truly professionals and so, so impressive.  The food was fantastic too.  We would definitely do it again.  E-Bear was especially impressed by the super-strong, fire-wielding hula men.  His pose after the show says it all.

After the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

As you can tell, we enjoyed hanging with the local celebrities, who always manage to make the kids feel like celebrities themselves. 

 Rapunzel, one of the many stars of our show, even took the time to braid G-Bear's hair.  

Rapunzel braided G-Bear's hair.
It was a truly magical moment for our princess-admiring G-Bear.  You better believe that braid stayed in for a few days.

We were so grateful that MoMo agreed to join our craziness for the trip.  While sleeping six in our hotel room seemed a bit ambitious at the outset, it turned out that we all collapsed in a heap at the end of each day.  Everyone slept like champs.  We were also glad to have her with us, as G-Bear and E-Bear were really excited to ride some of the bigger rides this time.  Thankfully, MoMo was willing to keep Buddy Bear company while we tackled the roller coasters and larger rides.

Over the course of our Disney days, we soaked up the snuggles, and found friends both old and new at every turn.  We'll always be grateful for moments like these.

Hanging with friends Woody and Jessie in Frontier Land.