Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November Playdates

For November, my fellow mommy friends and I planned two playdates for our kiddos-- a patriotic/flag theme for Veteran's Day and a Thanksgiving theme later in the month.

Jenna brought the snack for our flag theme-- fruit and string cheese. Cute idea!

The kids were quite excited to dig in.

Landon, Cody, Jaden, Micah, Abbie, Ryder, Kenzie

It was a little difficult to find flag games (my task for this playdate), as most activities were water-based for the Fourth of July. Apparently, most people don't celebrate Veteran's Day quite as actively with their toddlers. Imagine. :)

First, we played a sort of flag relay. The kids ran down the hallway to a mug that was holding flags. They'd grab a flag and then run back to their friends. I was impressed that the kids were fairly patient as they waited for their own turn.

Kenzie grabbed a second flag for a friend who
was unwilling to go down the hallway!
 Our second activity was one that I was fairly certain wouldn't work at all. But, I was curious to try and the other moms were willing, so we gave it a go. Flag Tag. :) Each child wore his flag (either stuck into his pocket or the waist of his pants. Then, the kids were supposed to try to catch each other's flags. It was fairly amusing to watch what happened. The 2-year-olds all seemed kinda lost and a bit uncomfortable with the flag in their pants... The 3-year-olds understood the concept a little better but were still hesitant to take flags from each other. A few times, one child would take a flag from another but then give that friend their own flag! Some kids just walked around trying to hand their flags away. I guess we should've been proud that they all wanted to share! :)

After less than two minutes of that game, we gathered the kids around for a bit of "teaching." We talked a bit about soldiers and looked at some pictures in a book. Then, we sang a super cute echo song called "See the Veteran" to the tune of "Frere Jacques." We sang this song a few times, as they all seemed to enjoy waving their flags as we sang.

Micah, Zeriah (a little girl that Ruth was babysitting that day),
Jaden, Cody, Abbie, Landon, Kenzie
 Our final activity was a patriotic star craft that Jenna planned. I wasn't able to get pictures of us actually doing the craft, as all of the mommy hands were busy helping or holding a child. But, here are Jaden and Cody's finished products. The boys were especially excited to lather the glue stick on their stars.

And... that was it for playdate #1. I think we managed 10 kiddos that day, so it was a busy one!

Our Thanksgiving playdate was just this week. After first arriving, we always let the kids play for a while to enjoy the toys at the new house and to get used to each other. Plus, the mommies get a little chance to visit, as long as everyone is playing well. It seems to work well to start our planned activities with snacktime. This time, Ruth brought turkey pastrami and other fun snacks (fruit, cheese, crackers).

Landon, Abbie, Cody, Wes, Kenzie, Jaden
 Samie planned a very cute hide-and-seek game. She made turkey legs out of paper bags and had the kids find them in various rooms. The kids wanted to play over and over again!

Cody and Landon-- don't they look a little alike?
 At the end, Samie let each child take turns hiding the turkey legs for one another. Cody and Jaden were content to simply search for the hidden ones, but the other kids happily took on the hiding role.

Then, we played a game that Jenna planned, even though she unfortunately had to miss our playdate. We played "Duck, Duck, Turkey." Cody, as you can see in this picture, was practically glued to this toy mixer that belonged in Kenzie's little play kitchen. Both boys loved the sound of the motor and took it pretty much everywhere with them during the whole playdate!

The age difference of the kids was quite apparent for this game. Kenzie got distracted fairly easily, and Jaden and Cody didn't seem to understand the game at all. (Or, maybe they were just too busy with the toy mixer!) The oldest kiddos, Abbie and Landon, loved it and quickly learned that the others weren't nearly as excited about playing. These two would continually tag each other and run back and forth all the way down the hallway. It was quite funny!

Samie planned our craft-- turkey shakers. (Don't worry, the beloved mixer is still close by, little Cody!)

Cody picked out the eyes for his turkey face...

And as always, the kids loved the glue stick part!

Here are the final products (stuffed with candy corn to make them noise-makers). Can you tell which turkey is the sample one?? :)

We ended our playdate with a little storytime. I was so excited that Ruth brought along the book, Albuquerque Turkey! Being raised in Albuquerque, I grew up singing that song!

The kids seemed to like it too. They listened attentively while Ruth read the story once and then flipped through the pages a second time while singing it.

What a fun morning! We thank God for these great friends to gather with each month!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Snow

Last week, we jumped drastically from a mild, comfortable fall into a bitter cold winter. The temperatures were literally in the 50's one day and then in the teens the next day. Talk about an abrupt season change! Early in the week, we got our first snowfall of the season.

Initially, Jaden and Cody were SO excited about the snow. They ran to the window and couldn't stop talking about the snow they saw. It was a wonderful morning distraction, as Jason happened to be out of town. Right after breakfast, we bundled up and headed out to experience the snow.

Unfortunately, I couldn't convince the boys to keep their gloves on, so they got cold quickly. I couldn't blame them-- it DID feel chilly! About all we did was walk on the grass for a bit before heading back inside.

Cody (in the hat with "two spikes") and Jaden in the blue coat
Instead, we celebrated the coming of winter inside with the boys' first taste of hot chocolate. The more accurate name, however, was "lukewarm chocolate" as I just filled their mugs up with warm water from the tap. :) Also, I wanted to give them an authentic mug but didn't want the mugs to break... so we used straws. How's that for a hot chocolate experience?? :)

The boys thought the hot chocolate was only okay. They were much more interested in talking about the snowmen on their mugs and especially in eating the marshmallows on the side! Not many of the marshmallows actually made it into their mugs...

We tried going out on a few other days to have more snow adventures, but the boys really didn't like the cold. (We still have to toughen up these Montana boys!) Also, the transition into a big winter coat was a bit of a difficult one, especially for Cody. Anytime we'd go anywhere he'd cry and flail around, saying, "No big coat! Too big! Too big!" and try to pull his coat off. So.. we're still taking baby steps with our snow experiences!

Thankfully, this week the weather has warmed up to more bearable outdoor winter temps. (What do you think of that, TX and Arizona family members? "Warming UP" to the 30's??) In addition, Cody's coat tantrums are lightening up a bit, so we've ventured outside a few times successfully again. 

On this particular day, we took out spray bottles filled with colored water. The boys picked the colors-- yellow and green.

They really enjoyed watching how the snow changed colors. Mommy enjoyed knowing that the yellow snow really was just from water!! :)

Hopefully, we'll have more snowy outdoor adventures to come. (Otherwise it could be a LONG winter indoors!!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall fun with Daddy!

(one of the few blog posts a year by Jason)  It may not feel like fall outside anymore, but we Schleicher boys embrace the fall season when it comes each year.  Jaden and Cody have now lived through three autumns, and in our house, that means they're currently participating in their third fantasy football season.  The boys co-manage a team named "First Name Jaycees" in our "Schleicher Relatives" family fantasy football league.  Every player on their team has a first name that starts with either the letter "J" or the letter "C".  Their kicker is even named Cody this year!  Last season, they shockingly won the championship after barely making the playoffs.  Defending their championship this year has proved to be too difficult a task, unfortunately.  

After this week's game, the boys' team will have a record of 3-8 and are all but eliminated from playoff contention.  Daddy still has fun letting them pick their starting lineup each week, however.  Here are two videos from a fantasy football matchup from many weeks ago that turned into one of their 8 losses. Perhaps the short videos will give you a look into their semi-distracted fantasy football minds.  You will also notice that Daddy asks one boy at a time to make a fantasy football decision.  That's called "adjusting to their age".  In week one, I looked them both in the eyes and gave them the choice between Jay Cutler or Joe Flacco at Quarterback.  One boy chose one QB, and the other boy chose the remaining QB.  It was nearly the same for each of the fantasy football starter positions that first week of the season, and Daddy said to himself, "They'll need separate teams in not too many more years.  Until then, I will specifically ask one boy for one position decision at a time."  

Here are the boys with their "loot" of objects that represented their starting lineup.  You may also notice Jaden's one blue and one white sock...Detroit Lions' fans at heart, I tell ya.

Coach Jaden and Coach Cody had many decisions to make about which players would play on this October football weekend.  Cody Parkey (kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles) is one of two players not listed since he was the only kicker on their roster by week 6.  Calvin Johnson (Daddy's favorite NFL player) was also not available to play due to injury.  As has been the case much of this fantasy football season, the boys left too many points "on their bench".  Joe Flacco was the right choice at Quarterback as he put up a huge 40 points.  Leaving Julio Jones, Julius Thomas, and the Arizona Cardinals defense on their bench cost First Name Jaycees 37 points, however.  Jaden and Cody lost by 21 points in this particular matchup to their cousins, Ian and Ryan.  

What else was Daddy up to with the boys during beautiful October?  We spent a few Fridays in a row raking lots of leaves.  Look at these hard workers!

Jaden and Cody certainly know how to combine work and play...

Jaden began picking up some leaves by the arm full and placing them carefully in their own separate pile away from Daddy's big pile.

Cody liked throwing the leaves up in the air.  Sometimes, he needed help getting the leaves out of his hood (or hair).  

In the end, the boys learned a lot about yard work and how to have fun when God changes the seasons.  

Thanks for a fun fall, boys!  Regarding fantasy football, celebrate the fact that you are the defending champions for a few more weeks.  Regarding any more leaves in the yard, look outside and celebrate by paging through one of your current favorite books titled, "Hello, snow!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Halloween & Pumpkin Activities

Because the boys had worn their costumes prior to Halloween, once the actual holiday rolled around, Cody and Jaden knew just what to do! They loved telling people that they were going to be a "Cowboy-Inden." (Yes, most of the time, each boy recited both costumes as his own!) Cody and Jaden were also very proud to hold their own candy buckets and were very ready to get them filled up! Here are the boys before our trick-or-treating outing. Gotta love those cheesy smiles! :)

The weather on Halloween evening was beautiful! Daddy said it was one of the warmest Halloweens that he could ever remember (other than our trip last year to balmy Texas!). It had been in the upper 50s that day, so we figured the boys would do okay without jackets.

Here is a little Halloween interview, before we set out. You can definitely sense the boys' excitement!

First, we walked around our neighborhood and visited the 8-9 neighbors that we know fairly well. Jaden and Cody really did happily hold their own buckets the entire way! They did a great job of saying "trick-or-treat" and then "thank you" at every home. We were excited that other people seemed to actually understand them! :)

Following our neighborhood walk, we hopped into the van and drove to 5 or 6 homes of church members who live in our same area of town. Both boys definitely seemed to enjoy their evening. Jason and I were especially proud of them because this was our first out-of-the-house adventure since we started potty training. Both boys stayed dry the entire evening out! Yay!

Later on Halloween weekend, we did some activities with our pumpkins. (With our heavy focus on potty training that week, we didn't get to these activities prior to Halloween. Thankfully, the boys didn't care or even notice!) First, we opened up our pumpkin. Jaden and Cody were very curious to see what was inside.

After touching the slimy insides once...

... both boys were content to simply use a spoon!

Cody was especially interested in the insides of the pumpkin and stuck with the scooping for quite some time! (This was a great activity to keep him occupied while Mommy was handling Jaden's need to go in and out, and in and out, and in and out of the bathroom.)

We kept our carving VERY basic this year (partially because Mommy forgot to buy a smaller carving knife and partly because basic was all we could handle amidst our concurrent bathroom adventures... notice Jaden's new pair of pants in the final pic!). 

We, did, however copy our basic pumpkin face from a book that the boys have really enjoyed reading this year called The Pumpkin Patch Parable. Cody and Jaden were particularly excited to see the glowing, candle-lit pumpkin inside our darkened bathroom.

The only other pumpkin craft that we did this year was to paint our pumpkins. We used the same pumpkins that the boys had received at the HarvestFest earlier in the month. You can probably see their Sharpie designs alongside the new paint!

Both boys picked out their own colors and very methodically added color to their pumpkin.

After the little pumpkins were done, the boys painted our large family pumpkin.

We've really enjoyed seeing Jaden and Cody's increased interest in doing holiday activities this year. I know it'll grow even more next year!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Halloween Party

A week before Halloween, we hosted a Halloween party for the boys and their little friends. It gave us a good opportunity to try out the boys' costumes. Jaden was our little Indian (mostly because he refused to put on boots and because he greatly dislikes wearing jeans), and Cody was our Montana cowboy.

This next pic is a bit deceiving. Cody is not actually taller than Jaden-- the boots just give him a little boost!

The boys were NOT that happy about being in costume, so we distracted them with different picture locations and with leaves!

I was fairly proud of myself for taking out my sewing machine and putting together Jaden's costume all on my own. I kept it very simple... only 2 seams up the sides of the tunic, and a bit of stitching on the headband to make it fit and to attach the feathers. Mostly, I was relieved that the top actually went over Jaden's head without tearing or inducing any screaming! :) Here's one last pic of the little Indian, sitting (almost) Indian-style.

When the guests started to arrive, I had all the kids sit around the kitchen table to make pumpkin creatures out of play-dough. I tried to make the homemade play-dough a bit more festive by coloring it orange and spicing it with nutmeg for some seasonal aroma. I'm pretty sure none of the kids noticed. :) 

Jaden and Cody mainly enjoyed cutting up their play-dough.

The older kids, like Abbie and Noah below, enjoyed using all the play-dough tools and decorations that I had set out (cookie cutters, pipe cleaners, feathers, googly eyes, etc.).

It was pretty cute seeing all the kids sitting in costume while decorating their play-dough creations. Also, the activity was perfect for keeping the kids calmly entertained while waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.

Samuel (our older brother helper) and Ella the lion
Ella was probably the kid who stuck with her play-dough creations for the longest length of time. Her creatures turned out pretty cute!

After all the kids arrived, we posed for a group picture. Unfortunately, Cody and Jaden were not in the happiest of moods, so they refused to stand in the picture unless I was with them.

Ryder the moose; Ella the lion; Batman Noah; Kody the hunter;
Abbie the princess; Landon the Hulk; Baby Hannah; Yoda Micah;
the pirate crew-- Kenzie, Grace, and Wes; Cody, Amy & Jaden 

Here's a close-up of Baby Wes (as Jaden and Cody affectionately call him). What a cute little costume!

After the group photo, it was snack time. The pumpkin oranges and banana ghosts were super popular on Pinterest this year-- probably because they look so cute and yet are so easy to make. We also had pumpkin muffins to accompany the fruit.

Kenzie and Grace


      While the kids ate, two of the other moms read Halloween/pumpkin stories to the group.

 The kids were great listeners...

Kody, Noah, Micah
...Jaden and Cody, included!

We had to bring out our little picnic table in order to fit all 11 kids in the kitchen. It was a bit tight, but it worked!

Ella, Abbie, Landon
I had originally planned to do all of our games indoors, but the morning was beautiful, so we soaked up the sunshine and went out. (What a great change from our snowy and COLD party last year!)

The first game we played was a spider web hunt. Before the party started, I had drawn a chalk spider web on the driveway (way easier than the duct tape web I had been planning to do indoors!). Then, we spread out plastic spiders & bugs all over the web.

The kids looked super cute all lined up, listening to the directions. This probably would've been a cuter spot to take our group costume picture!

The kids took turns (3 or 4 at a time) racing to pick up all the plastic bugs. They could only step on the lines of the spider web, though, on their way to retrieve the bugs.

Many of the kids didn't really follow the "stay on the lines" direction. But the plastic bugs were sure a hit! :)

While the other kids were waiting their turn to play the Spider Web game, they could play a pumpkin ring toss game. The goal was to toss a canning jar ring around a pumpkin stem, or (since this was fairly difficult) to simply hit the pumpkin with the ring.

Following the game time, we had a mini trick-or-treat event. Each family group took a turn standing behind the door to hand out candy to all the kids. The boys and I went first.

Jaden and Cody were both excited to hold their own candy bucket... and to fill it up with candy, of course!

The process of switching family groups and handing out candy got a little confusing, especially since all the kids wanted to hang out right by the steps or near the door. I'm pretty sure some kids either got looked over or got double candy. No one complained, though, so it all turned out fine! The act of knocking on the door and saying "trick or treat" was fun for enough kids that the confusion was worth it. :)

Back inside, we moved into craft time. I gave each kid a black cut-out in the shape of a candy corn. The kids dabbed white, orange, and yellow paint onto their candy corns using a clothespin and a small pom-pom. This new painting method was pretty exciting for Cody and Jaden.

Ryder seemed to be a fan, too!

Kenzie experimented a bit with both ends of the clothespin. :)

Many of the older kids were a little distracted with sampling their candy while working on their craft.

The dotted-paint texture ended up looking pretty neat on the candy corns. As expected, only a handful of the kids actually got the colors in the right places, but everyone seemed to enjoy the process.

Once the crafts were done, we moved on to two more games. This downstairs game seemed to be the kids' favorite from last year, so I chose to bring it back. The "ghost prints" on the ground are Cody and Jaden's last-year footprints. Each print is decorated with a colored shape. Samuel (Ella's older brother) was a great helper during the whole party. Here, he demonstrated the game for the younger kids.

I turned on some music in the background while the kids walked around on the footprints.

When the music stopped, the kids had to listen for a direction: "Stand on a red. Find a star, etc." Once the music started, they could race around again. We didn't play for all that long, but the kids seemed to have a good time with it.

Finally, we went into the back yard for a few pumpkin relays. Each line of kids had a small pumpkin.

At our "go," the kids had to race to the opposite end of the yard, and then return the pumpkin to their teammate.

I had a couple more relays in mind for the kids to play (passing the pumpkins over their heads, passing the pumpkins through their legs, rolling the pumpkins along the ground...). All of the kids were pretty distracted by the play set, though, and seemed ready for some free time. So, that's what we did!

You may have noticed throughout these pictures that Jaden and Cody weren't very active at all in any of the games. Mostly, both boys just wanted to stand by me or have me hold them all morning. I'm not sure what accounted for their not-so-happy moods this day. You never quite know with 2-year-olds sometimes! Once the outdoor free play time came, however, Jaden and Cody were finally ready to leave Mommy's side. This was definitely the boys' favorite part of the morning (probably with snacktime being a very close second!).

So, even though Jaden and Cody may not have had the most fun in the world with these planned Halloween activities, it seemed to be worthwhile for all the other kiddos! If nothing else, I guess, we gave Cody and Jaden some costume-wearing practice, and the boys came away with some yummy Halloween candy too. :)