Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Playdate

Early in December, our playgroup had a Christmas themed playdate. I was in charge of snacks. We had popcorn snowmen and grinch/Santa hat fruit kabobs.

While the kids ate, Jenna read a story about the First Christmas. The book had beautiful Thomas Kinkade pictures, so the kiddos seemed to be really interested.

Jaden and Cody were in a bit of a clingy mood, so I got some cuddle time with my boys during the story.

Samie planned an ornament craft. The kids first covered their paper plates with glue. I think this was the favorite step for everyone! 

Then they placed tissue paper circles on top. (A big thank you goes to Samie's wonderful hubby for cutting out ALL of these circles for us!)

Here are a couple of the beautiful finished products by Micah and Abbie.

Where were Cody and Jaden during this craft time? Well, these vehicle-loving twins could NOT be torn away from all the fun new trucks at Jenna's house, so they had some private playtime! Instead, we took the craft materials home, and the boys made their ornaments later. It worked!

We ended with a few games that Jenna planned. First, Jenna taught the kids how to be small, medium, and tall-sized Christmas trees.

Then, at her direction, the kids had to act out whether the tree was small, medium, or BIG. Can you guess which kind Kenzie, Abbie, Ryder, and Micah are acting out below?

For the last game, the kids tried to toss a small unbreakable ornament into the Santa hat. I was impressed with how well the kiddos waited for their turn on this game.

I think they all took at least 2 turns each before moving onto free-playtime. Even Jaden and Cody (below) took a couple turns with this game.

It  was a fun day to get into the Christmas spirit with our friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Preparing for Christmas

December has been an enjoyable month for our family. With Jaden and Cody comprehending and speaking more this year, they're able to understand a bit more about what Christmas means. We've loved involving them in more of our Christmas traditions.

We started our holiday season early and decorated the house right after Thanksgiving. Jason and I put up the tree during the boys' naptime, but the boys were quite excited to join us with the decorating part when they awoke. Cody and Jaden needed some help getting the ornament to actually stay on the tree, but they loved picking out which ornament to hang and where it should go.

The only ornaments they chose that didn't actually make it on the tree were these miniature Cozy Coupe ornaments (from Grammy and Papa last year). The boys thought they were SO cool and just wanted to push them around the house. Why waste a perfectly good car by relegating it motionless on a tree? :)

Daddy helped with some of the higher placements.

And when we were all done (pretty much when the boys lost interest), Daddy showed the boys the under-the-tree view. My favorite part of this pic is the identical way the boys are crossing their legs!

One other decoration the boys helped with was painting these mini tree decorations for our wall. I basically just drew a tree on our easel paper, gave the boys paint, and asked them to decorate it. In the beginning, I wasn't intending it as a decoration (I just desperately needed a new activity on a somewhat fussy day). But, the boys were so proud of their final product that we cut the trees out and hung them in our kitchen. The next day, we used contact paper and colored tissue paper to make the stars.

The decoration that I was MOST proud of this year, however, were the stockings for Jaden and Cody. For as long as I can remember, my stocking has always been an appliqued Snoopy stocking lovingly handmade by my Aunt Marian. What a special memory! My sister has appliqued several for her family, so I thought I could give it a try, too. Boy, was it a lot of work! It was fun to do, though, and I was proud of how the stocking turned out. Here is Jaden's football Santa:

Even though I started on the stocking way back in the summer, I knew that there was NO way I could complete both boys' stockings in time for Christmas. Thankfully, my mom graciously volunteered to sew one of them for me. Grammy put in many, many hours of work to complete Cody's golfing Santa stocking. It turned out beautifully! Here are both stockings together:

And here is our Christmas mantel... gotta love the toys and kid gear that are ever-present in the background of pics these days!

When December 1st arrived, we took some time each day to focus on the Advent season. To tell the boys the true Story of Christmas, we used this Advent calendar (made by Grammy) that was an annual tradition in Amy's household.

Jaden and Cody have been very eager to place new felt items on this banner each day.

They've really seemed to understand and retain quite a few details from the Christmas story this year, too. This video shows the boys' explanation of their Advent banner.

In addition, each day of Advent, the boys have been opening a door on this Advent box (thanks, Matt and Kim, for this thoughtful gift!). In the past, Jason and I have used the Advent box as a way to give small gifts and plan activities for one another during this busy time of year. This year, it was a joy to see Cody and Jaden's excitement to open the boxes each morning.

We couldn't actually fill all of the boxes at the beginning of Advent because the boys loved opening the doors each day and even using the Advent box as a parking garage for their cars! Instead, each morning, we'd fill just one box with a piece of paper which told the boys what their special treat or activity of the day would be. It was a fun game for them to find which box held the special paper. Often, later in the day, we'd find one boy opening up random doors of the Advent box, saying "paper, paper," looking for another treat. It was readily apparent that they both have loved this tradition! 

Probably a third of our Advent box items were pieces of candy for the boys. The other two-thirds included activities that we did as a family. One night, we had our first ever Schleicher family movie night with popcorn.

Of course, Jaden and Cody don't really sit through movies at all yet (which is why we've never had a movie night). We figured that watching a episode or two of a Thomas the Train Christmas special would be perfect. Eating the popcorn (which they LOVE) helped Cody and Jaden stay still for at least 20 minutes of Thomas. At one point in the video, Thomas was trying to catch a runaway sled and Jaden enthusiastically called out, "Go get it, Thomas!" We knew that the movie night was a success! :)

Another day, we took the boys to a local event called the Festival of Trees. I forgot to take a picture of the actual room full of trees. Many businesses or organizations from around town decorate themed trees. Visitors can vote for their favorite tree. Without hesitation, the boys chose a tall, blue snowman tree as their top choice.

In another room, small carnival games were set up for kids. This part of the event was not well-done at all, as the games were very cheesy (see the super-small beanbag game below). 

There wasn't much to do here, but we got a few minutes of family enjoyment from these photo boards...

Jaden as a snowman

...and this mini-golf game.

Another night, we read bedtime Christmas stories by the light of the Christmas tree.

One box idea that Mommy was particularly excited about was a visit to a local church's Live Nativity. We were impressed with the real donkey, sheep, and goats by the manger. Jaden was fairly brave about petting each animal.

Cody pet a few of the animals eventually, but he seemed a little more nervous about the jittery animals.

One of our last activities was a family cookie-making night. We made three different kinds of cookies, one of which was peanut butter blossoms. Daddy taught the boys how to unwrap the Hershey kisses. We let the boys have an initial chocolate piece before they started their job but weren't sure that would be enough for them. Surprisingly, both boys listened well and didn't try to sample another one!

Both boys always love measuring, dumping, and stirring whenever we have a cooking project. They actually were quite helpful!

It's easy to see why people call this "the most wonderful time of the year." We've had a great time preparing our hearts for Jesus' birth and having an excuse to do special things as a family.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Two and a Half Years Old

On December 2, Jaden and Cody officially turned 2 and a half. It sounds a bit silly to say, but that sure seems a lot older than just plain 2. The boys seem so much older than just a few months ago. They continue to grow like weeds AND their language is progressing so quickly. The increased communication is likely the main reason why Jaden and Cody seem more grown up. Mommy and Daddy love hearing what's going on in their little minds! Here is a brief 2-and-a-half-year-old interview so you can see and hear for yourself...

Here are a few random photos of them at 2 and a half. In this first photo, the boys are showing off their new hockey jerseys (gifts from our friends at LAMP ministries in Canada). And, yes, Cody has a huge gash in his neck from falling into one of our end tables! Thankfully, he handled it well, and it healed quickly.

This picture makes me crack up every time I look at it. These are the cheesy smiles the boys will give us whenever we ask them to smile for a picture. It also makes them a bit harder to tell apart! (Jaden is on the left.)

We squeaked out smiles that were a bit more natural for this next one (although Cody looks like he's plotting something...). These photos were taken prior to our Thanksgiving Day service. The boys' adorable tops were gifts from Grandma and Grandpa.

Here are a couple of individual shots. Cody's goofy smile first..

and then Jaden. I was SO excited when I found this shirt for Jaden at a garage sale this summer. He wore the exact same shirt (in a different size, of course) when he was 5 months old. Now these pictures definitely show a lot of growth!

So what is life like with 2-and-a-half year old twins? Quite honestly, it's been a bit of a challenge recently. Our boys are opinionated, extremely particular, and short-fused (I guess that probably goes with the territory of being 2!). Many days, I tell Jason that I love both of our boys immensely, but I don't exactly love having twins at this stage. The toy battles, sibling fights, and double tantrums are exhausting!

Most of the time, Jaden and Cody are arguing over stuff (toys, cars, books, animals, etc.). Whatever one boy has is exactly what both boys want! Other times, Jaden and Cody's battles result from a difference of opinion (whether the dinosaurs should be IN or OUT of the tent; whether we should have the basement lights ON or OFF while we play; whether Mommy should play UPstairs with one boy or DOWNstairs with the other; whether the radio should be ON or OFF in the car... you get the idea). Still other times, the boys purposely seem to push each other's buttons (stealing snacks out of the other's bowl; taking a toy right out of the other's hands; pouring blocks right in the way of brother's Cozy Coupe; retaliating by lying down right in front of the other brother's Cozy Coupe; etc. etc. etc.).

Sometimes, these battles result in a physical response, like hitting, biting, throwing toys, or pulling hair. Other times, the result is just a full-out wailing tantrum from one or even both boys (you can imagine how fun THAT is!). This next picture shows the boys nursing some kind of battle wound with ice packs. At least they look somewhat remorseful...

As tiring as these challenging days can be for Mommy and Daddy, we're trying to remind ourselves that it probably is tough for our little boys to be a twin at this stage. I'm sure it's frustrating and tiring to have to share everything, all the time, from the very moment you're born. Being 2 is hard enough work on your own! We continue to pray daily for wisdom and patience as we try to guide our boys through this challenging stage...

So, yes, we've had a lot of tiring parenting days lately, but, yes, God has also blessed us with some joyous moments too. Cody and Jaden have had some wonderful accomplishments recently-- most importantly, getting potty trained!! Jaden was a faster learner (showing confidence after just over a week). Cody took a bit longer (nearly a month to be successful at both types of potty-going). Still, we have been SO proud of the boys' progress, and to this day (other than our 1st week of learning), neither boy has yet had an accident away from home. Woo-hoo!! :) They LOVE flushing toilets in public restrooms and hearing the "big noise."

Here are a couple of precious potty-time pics. The boys loved practicing potty-going with their stuffed animals (thanks for the helpful idea, Aunt Kim!). Jaden read many-a book to his piggie while waiting for him to go. :)

Some days, one boy (like Cody pictured below) would take it upon himself to entertain his brother while on the potty. (Moments like these are God's way of reassuring me that having twins can still be a joy!)

Another fun accomplishment is that the boys have recently taught themselves how to do somersaults. I'm pretty sure it happened accidentally the first time Cody rolled over, so he ended with a surprised and playful "Ow!" The name stuck. Now the boys will say, "Play ow!" whenever they want to do somersaults together. :)

Other accomplishments have been learning to independently climb the rock wall on our playset and (for Cody) sticking a green pea up his nose! Unfortunately, we only figured this out when the pea finally dislodged itself after 3 uncomfortable days! I guess Cody learned his lesson. The next time we ate peas, he promptly said, "No pea up nose." Good boy. :)

As mentioned before, the boys' language development has been so fun to witness. They regularly talk in basic sentences like "Mommy go hide" or "Cody turn now" or "Jaden say boo." Some of our favorite toddler comments include:
  • "Cue me bruthah/door!" ("Excuse me" when running past people or even inanimate objects)
  • "Mommy pokey" (when sitting on Mommy's lap and she hasn't shaved her legs in a while!)
  • "Daddy hold you" (when you want to be held)
  • "Funny name" (Cody's comment, full of giggles, when he hears a new word or name)
  • "New-new" (noodles)
  • "Ear-go bruthah!" (Jaden's comment on a happy-sharing day: "Here you go, brother!")
  • "Medicine lotion on" (Their request for Neosporin after any injury.)
  • "Bagel and mummin" (Their name for 2 types of blocks. The thick square blocks are muffins. The similar square blocks, but with holes inside, they call bagels. Creative!)
  • "Thank you, God, for this food. Amen." (Not quite said this clearly, but their regular prayer before every meal.)
Jaden and Cody both love imitating phrases from Mommy and Daddy, things they hear on the radio, or random phrases in church. They're usually fairly good at filling in the blanks for stories or songs, like the "This Little Piggy" rhyme in the video below.

During playtime, the boys absolutely LOVE their cars, trucks, planes, basically anything with wheels. They'll roll their cars on the piano bench, on the table, on the couch, on the fireplace, on their new car mat from Grammy and Papa, anywhere! Sometimes, they'll just hold a car and look at its features for quite some time.

Jaden and Cody's other recent love is their hoard of stuffed animals. They usually pile all 15-20 of them in one place (like their play tent or in Mommy and Daddy's closet) and then "swim" around among all the animals. Other times, they'll take them one at a time to the back bedroom for a nap, lovingly tucking them in, saying good night, closing the door, and then retrieving them after just a few seconds. Both boys have picked out a favorite "piggy" puppet that has become their most treasured "lovey." They both carry these pink leg-less pig puppets around everywhere!

Other favorite activities include watching football (for a few minutes, anyway) with Daddy...

playing hide-and-seek (if they're together, the boys will hide quietly in a totally dark room for several minutes before they're found!), watching home videos of themselves, using Dry-Erase markers on the easel, flipping through books, using play-dough, watching Baby Einstein videos, dumping their tub of blocks on the floor (though rarely choosing to actually play with the blocks...), and playing catch (Sometimes they can be quite accurate! Check out the video).

Unfortunately, our playtime fun doesn't typically include snowy adventures yet. We're still working to toughen up these boys into true Montanans! We did have one successful day of sledding in the backyard (although Jaden looks absolutely terrified in this particular photo). We made at least 5 or 6 runs down the little hill in our yard and a few pulling-tours around and through the playset. 

Most days, though, the boys are quite stubborn about putting on boots and winter coats, so when they request to "stay in-ide," Mommy usually gives in. Progress in baby steps. :)

The boys also enjoy our weekly library storytime outing. They don't always sit still for all of the librarian's books, but they seem to love the craft-time that follows, especially when they get to use glue sticks!

Jaden and Cody are very energetic and curious little boys. These little 2-and-a-half year olds definitely make our life an adventure. Even on the tough days, we absolutely love having them in our lives and are very thankful for them both!