Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frugal Traditions {Christmas Countdown}

I made this advent calendar for my boys a few years ago, and it has become our countdown tradition. It has 25 little drawers ready to fill. 

One year, I filled them with candy, one year I filled them with tiny plastic birds, one year was tiny ornaments, and last year was little strips of paper with activities written on them. I'm down to the wire this time, but I'll hopefully have a plan by tomorrow for this year's countdown. The activities were a big hit last year, so I'll most likely go that route again. And, the drawers don't all have to be filled too far in advance, so I can add activities based on our schedule.  

Here are some of last year's ideas:

 1.  Go see Santa.
 2.  Make cat toys using pom-poms, bells, and elastic string for the kitties' Christmas.
 3.  Decorate the gingerbread house.

 4. Make gingerbread men.

 5.  Pack a box for Operation Christmas Child and drop it off.
 6.  Make ornaments -- we did several different ones on different days, using cardstock, stamps, and glitter glue; painting wooden shapes; Styrofoam ball snowmen.
 7.  Drop some change in the Salvation Army bucket.
 8.  Volunteer at our local charity filling Christmas gift bags for kids in the area.
 9.  Pack and mail a soldier care package.
10. Go see Christmas lights.
11. Make place card cone trees for the family Christmas party.

12. Learn Christmas songs on the guitar and drums to play at the family Christmas party.
13. Have a family movie night with one of our favorite Christmas DVDs and plenty of popcorn.
16. Read a favorite Christmas book together.
17. Make cards for nursing home residents.
18. Roll pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed and decorate a wildlife tree outside.
19. Make Christmas gift tags using pieces cut from last year's Christmas cards and using a hole punch to make a hole to thread a piece of ribbon through.
20. Make peppermint bark.
21. Make ornaments using natural materials found outside.
22. Go to a parade!
23. Decorate paper bag luminaries.
24. Make cookies for Santa.
25. Read the Christmas story from Scripture.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Wish List

Today's Mama  and GameStop are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What is your holiday wish for your family?
My wish is for everyone to be healthy and happy.  I know it sounds cliche, but it is so true, and really, what more could you want?

2. What is your Christmas morning tradition?
My husband is usually the first "kid" up and starts making noise so a real kid will get up and start the fray.  We hang out around the tree all morning until the grandparents come over for a big lunch.  As a kid, I spent many Christmases traveling to visit relatives since my Dad was in the Navy and we always lived far away, so now I like to stay at home and let my kids keep their jammies on all day.

3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?
A pair of Frye boots.

4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?
I am doing a December Daily album for the third time using only supplies I already had on-hand.  My kids and I always make ornaments using craft supplies from our stash, and we enjoy riding around looking at Christmas lights.  We try to keep the holidays simple and focus on family-time instead of shopping.

5. What games did you play with your family growing up?
We played Monopoly, Clue, and a game called Masterpiece--is that one still out there? 

6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?
I always do an advent calendar with my boys, and we always have blueberry muffins for Christmas breakfast and then a big family lunch.

7. Where would you go for a Christmas-away-from-home trip?
We would head to the mountains to a cozy cabin with a view.

8. Check out GameStop and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?
My wish list would be the wii UDraw Tablet with uDraw Studio (looks super fun,) the wii Wireless Rock Band 3 Drum Set (it has symbols!!!,) and the wii Guitar Warriors of Rock Guitar Bundle (we have almost blown out our current Guitar Hero guitar!) It's fun to dream, isn't it?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nature Walk: Brevard, North Carolina

We got to explore Brevard, North Carolina for the weekend, and we especially enjoyed being outdoors in the crisp air and seeing some wonders of nature!

The folks over at Imagine Childhood featured our nature walk on their site, so please stop by to see more of our adventures.

The mountain range is breathtakingly beautiful, and we all could just gaze over it for hours.

We spotted deer, got up close to some silly turkeys crossing the road, and discovered the famous white squirrels of Brevard. {Oh, they are so cute!}

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This weekend

We're celebrating my baby's 7th birthday this weekend with a Harry Potter party, and we're off to see the movie we've been waiting for all year.  We couldn't find any Harry Potter birthday-themed decorations at the party store, so we are using a small lego set for the cake topper and decorating the dining room with pieces from our Wizard Chess set and some peel off wall stickers I found at Hot Topic.  The kids are coming in their class robes. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Beautifully written and illustrated, Thank You, Sarah is a must-read for the Thanksgiving season.  Entertaining for all ages, this book is a valuable resource for studying the Thanksgiving holiday, with a section after the story of historical facts, a timeline, and a bibliography of additional resources.

Here is a lesson plan to accompany the book with a link to the actual letter Sarah Hale wrote to the president and a link to a letter writing generator for students to use to write their own letters.

For practice in persuasive writing, students could write a letter to a public official suggesting a holiday they think should be on the official calendar:  Lego day, dessert day, sleep late day...


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You to all our Veterans!

36 Random Vintage Military PhotographsImage by Tobyotter via Flickr

Happy Veteran's Day!

As a Navy brat and Army wife, I am especially proud to say this today.  We are filling up a care package to send off through Any Soldier.com.  We found some awesome polarfleece neckwarmers on the dollar aisle at Target which will be a nice addition to the usual treats we send.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a Veteran's Day Teacher's Guide that you can download and print for free.
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Thank a Vet for your freedom today!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What About Turkey Day?

What a shock to head over to the mall yesterday for some new kid's shoes only to find out that Santa is ALREADY THERE!! 


The boys couldn't believe it, but they stopped by to say hello after some prompting from the picture lady. Of course, nobody has a list ready yet, and when Santa put them on the spot, they all stared back silently. Santa said they needed to get to work on their lists, but I think they have to eat turkey before they can get into that mode.

We've become used to seeing the stores all decked out as soon as they put the Halloween stuff on clearance, but, Santa, what about Thanksgiving?

We love Thanksgiving in our family, and here are some resources we are using to learn more about its history:
A classic: The Thanksgiving Story
by Alice Dalgliesh

Three Young Pilgrims
by Cheryl Harness
These are both excellent books to use with any age. Three Young Pilgrims is our absolute favorite, and it is beautifully illustrated and detailed. The maps are gorgeous, and my kids love to read every little detail and caption.

The Thanksgiving Story is our traditional holiday read-aloud, and it is an old favorite as well.

The Scholastic teacher's site features a free virtual field trip of the Mayflower and Plimouth, as well as free printables and activities that will accompany these books nicely.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Photo {Schoolroom Clean-Up}

This photo was a good day in the schoolroom -- not too disorganized -- cat on the table interfering with papers, train set seeing lots of action.

Today, there isn't a square foot of open carpet space to be seen. Star Wars figures, blocks, doggie toys, piles of books everywhere. Our goal for the week's end is to get it in order and do some re-arranging. I'm purging some books and straightening up papers. It's too cold and rainy to venture outside, so this may prove to be a useful hibernation-preparation activity!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebrate November

In November by Cynthia Rylant is taking us on a virtual nature walk through a November world. It will inspires us to get outside and soak in the goodness of fall. We like to celebrate November's specialness before jumping into the Christmas season, even though the stores are already saying it is Christmas! 

My youngest is working on a "leaf book." He is collecting different leaf shapes and making rubbings of them with crayon rocks. Once he finishes his pages, we will make them into a book by adding a card stock cover, punching holes in the side, and binding them with twine.

We love all the goodness that fall brings, from the cool crisp air, apples fresh from the farm, and beautiful colors of the landscape. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Fun: Still eating candy!

Hope your Halloween was as fun as ours!  My oldest placed first for his age group in a Halloween 5K! We went trick-or-treating and had a small family party with lots of Halloween treats, and even our doggie played along this year with his own costume. Our cats didn't recognize him in his disguise, though, and we laughed so hard at them puffing up and hissing at him!

The boys all did a great job with their bags, using acrylic paint and puff paint. They are filled right now, mostly with candy wrappers, but they will be used over and over all year. It seems like we are always hauling stuff around!

Happy November!