Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter Weekend

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! What a perfect reason to celebrate.

For Easter this year, we were excited that the boys were old enough to actually understand some of the popular holiday festivities. A few weeks prior to Easter, Mommy took out the plastic Easter eggs and a basket to practice egg hunting with Jaden and Cody. I knew we'd attend some kind of Easter egg hunt, and I didn't want them to be lost or confused. Well, as you can imagine, they picked up on the concept very quickly! I was particularly happy that they understood how to bring the eggs back to the basket that Mommy was holding, rather than to start running around like crazy amongst the eggs. Teaching our twins how to stay close by, particularly in public settings, is a concept that I'm sure we'll be continually reinforcing throughout life!

A variety of large churches in our community hosted Easter egg hunts on the Saturday before Easter. The one that we attended, I believe, is one of the largest. Daddy was busy at work that day, unfortunately, preparing for Sunday's Easter breakfast. So, we asked our dear friend Laurie from church to join us. With all the crowds that day, it was SUCH a blessing to have her help. We could actually enjoy the entire morning!

Before the egg hunt started, the boys tried their hand at a few games. First, we attempted the bean bag toss.

Then, Cody and Jaden tried out the plastic bowling game.

The boys didn't quite understand the concept of "taking two tosses and then you're done." Both of them kept running to retrieve the beanbags or the bowling ball to try the game again and again. Thankfully, Jaden and Cody are young enough that the patient kids behind them in line just laughed. And, the gracious game monitors gave both boys candy just for their efforts.

Here are Cody, Jaden, and Laurie, lined up next to the egg hunt field, ready to begin. If you are able to zoom in on this picture, you can see the hundreds of eggs strewn about this grassy field. There were SO many!

Jaden and Cody participated in the 0-3 egg hunt group. I was pleased with this division, as I didn't have to worry about them being run over by any over-zealous older kids. I knew that the boys could hold their own. :)

Despite the LARGE amounts of eggs on the field, the entire egg hunt lasted less than 2 minutes. The crowds on opposite ends of the field closed in on each other very quickly. I was particularly thankful for Laurie's extra set of hands during this portion of the morning!

Each of the boys probably got 8-10 eggs. As soon as the hunt was done, we found a spot to sit where the boys could open their eggs.

Laurie and I had to tear the tape off the eggs, but then the boys eagerly opened the eggs to find their candy. Surprisingly, they were much more interested in the act of finding the candy than they were in eating it! I think Cody even spit out a portion of his treat. :)

By that point, it was already near lunchtime, so we were ready to go home. The boys seemed to thoroughly enjoy their first community egg hunt experience. Thanks again, Laurie, for spending time with us!

Of course, the most important part of Easter was celebrating our Savior's resurrection on Sunday. Because of Daddy's busy morning with the youth Easter breakfast, the boys and I chose to attend late service. That way, he could actually sit with us for at least part of the service. 

Growing up, my family had often attended the EARLY sunrise service, so it felt a bit strange to be going to church so late. It was sure nice, however, to have so much time to get the boys all dressed up in their Easter finest. We had plenty of time to try out all kinds of picture poses...

As you can tell, Mommy wasn't very successful in getting smiles out of either boy. It took all of her energy just to get them to stay next to each other and sit still. After church, though, Daddy knew just what to do to get his little boys to giggle. Happy 2nd Easter to our handsome little guys!

On the day after Easter, we were very pleased to have Daddy with us all day long, since the church office was closed. We took advantage of the beautiful weather by enjoying our first-of-the-year outdoor picnic.

Daddy grilled some delicious burgers for us. We couldn't tell which aspect of the meal the boys liked better-- the yummy food or just being outside!

We hope that you, our family and friends, enjoyed a blessed Easter as well. May you continue to rejoice in Jesus' victory over death and in His great love for you throughout the year. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April Playdate

The month of April was a full one for the four of us mommies in playgroup. Each one of us had family visiting at some point in the month, and one of us welcomed a new addition (a sweet little baby girl) to her family. So, with all of this excitement, we were only able to schedule one playdate for the month. Our gathering primarily centered on Easter with an additional Earth Day type activity.

Jenna found a super cute snack idea on Pinterest-- an open tomb representing Jesus' resurrection. She even made signs for each snack that read, "He is Risen." When the kids sat down for snack, we talked with them briefly about what the snack meant and reminded them of Jesus' great love and sacrifice for them. We know that the kids got at least some of the story because at the end, many of them kept asking for another "grave" or "tomb" to eat when they wanted another donut. :)

After snacktime, Jenn brought out a game she had created, geared mainly for the older boys. She had written uppercase and lowercase letters on a set of Easter eggs.

Then, she separated each of the eggs and asked the kids to match up their uppercase and lowercase letters. The greatest part of the game was that if the kids were struggling to find the letter match, they could sort the eggs by color to help narrow down their choices. What a great educational game! The younger kids had a ball with this game, too-- basically just opening and closing the eggs.

Our next activity was an Easter craft. We taped a contact paper cross for each child to our sliding glass door.

Each child decorated his or her cross with small tissue paper squares. 

This craft was a perfect one for the variety of ages of our kids. Even Cody and Jaden totally understood what to do. The crosses even ended up looking great if the kids stuck a whole clump of tissue paper on their cross. 

We gave the older boys their own spot next to our front window so they'd have a bit more room. 

It worked out well, since these 2 boys were willing to put in a little more careful time into their project. Their crosses ended up looking the best since they took the time to fill in nearly the entire cross.

In the end, though, Cody and Jaden's crosses looked pretty good though, too! We still enjoy looking at their nice decorations each time we sit down to eat dinner.

Our final playdate activity was a neat scavenger hunt idea that I happened to see on Pinterest. Before our playdate, I gathered 12 different nature items from around our yard and took pictures of these items on white paper. I had a tough time finding 12 different things, though, so I grabbed various colors of rocks for a few of the items. I placed these pictures into a sort of table and printed them off so they'd be just the right size to fit above an egg carton.

The kids' job was to see how many of the nature items they could find around our yard.

The egg cartons made a perfect holder for their items as the kids hunted.

 The hunt kept the kids occupied for quite some time. Jaden and Cody, of course, didn't really understand the concept. They spent their time either following the other kids around or just playing in the sandbox. :)

None of the kids had quite the attention-span needed in order to find all 12 items, but they seemed to all have a good time running around the yard.

Here is an example of one of the semi-filled egg cartons. Not every item is in the right spot, but you get the idea. :)

At the very end of our playdate, we had an exciting surprise...

...a visit from the garbage truck! I love how the arrival of this vehicle takes instant precedence over ANYTHING else going on in our household! It was great seeing how the older kids were still just as interested as the younger ones in watching the garbage truck. What a great end to a great playdate. :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gifts from Grandpa & Grandma

Grandma and Grandpa had the thoughtful idea to give Jaden and Cody small gifts during each day of their visit. Of course, the best gift was simply hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa, but our boys were pretty excited about these little extras from their grandparents, too. :)

By the end of the week, Cody and Jaden seemed to know just what to expect in the mornings. They would often wait eagerly by the top of the stairs when they heard Grandma and Grandpa's voices.

One of Grandma's good friends had sewn these cute little gift baskets for the boys. Cody and Jaden were very eager to check out the baskets' contents.

Of course, the boys LOVED the food that they found in the baskets-- fruit snacks....

and M & M's. What a fun treat!

Grandma also included fun activities in the baskets, like coloring books and crayons or stickers.

One day, Grandma and Grandpa even gave the boys small bird treats that we could hang in our tree. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any birds nibble on this treat yet, but then again, the birds are just barely starting to return home after our long & snowy winter! Jaden and Grandma & Cody and Grandpa hung the treats so that we could see the hungry birds perfectly from our front window.

Definitely the toy that elicited the most giggles was this pack of noisemakers! Both boys even figured out how to blow the noisemaker all on their own, though because they were giggling so much, they often needed help holding on to it.

Mommy and Daddy were even the blessed recipients of a wonderful treat one day, too. Grandma and Grandpa graciously offered to babysit Jaden and Cody for a late afternoon and evening so that we could attend a wedding & reception for some church friends. Since we rarely take the chance to go out together, this was such a gift! Don't you love all the toys in the background of this otherwise formal couple picture?? How our lives have changed... :)

We knew that we were leaving our boys in loving, capable hands, so we didn't worry one bit! Jaden and Cody seemed to love the extra time and attention from Grandma and Grandpa, too.

The activity that took up much of their playtime while we were gone involved another Grandma and Grandpa gift. This gift was an early birthday present-- a new wooden train set! Aunt Kim had suggested a few great options of train sets for our boys, and this one that we selected arrived in the mail only hours before we left for the wedding. It was perfect timing. Right after the boys awoke from their nap, Grandma and Grandpa had a great distraction for the boys.

We loved this particular train set because of all the "extras"-- trees, road signs, houses, and bridges.

As you can see, the boys eagerly jumped right in. Grandpa taught them how to keep their train cars right on the track.

Grandpa and Grandma wisely determined that both boys needed their own train engine, so they bought another engine and a few extra vehicles from Target. They certainly know how the minds of these little twin boys work! We are sure to enjoy many hours of train-playing in our future!

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for all of these kind gifts and most of all for your love-- both for us and for our little boys. We appreciate your generosity!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Special Outings

During their visit here, Grandma and Grandpa came with us on a variety of outings. Some of the places we visited were regular weekly or monthly outings for us, while others were completely new experiences. It was SO great to have Grandma and Grandpa's company on these adventures.

On their first full day in town, we visited a park close to the river. It was a beautiful spring day to be outside-- our first day reaching into the 70s. 

The best thing about this park is that the water is home to TONS of ducks and geese.

The ducks and geese came quite a bit closer...

...and even closer once they saw the bread in our hands.

Both boys, but Cody in particular, quickly learned the art of "bread tossing."

Mommy appreciated having two extra sets of hands to watch these excited boys play next to the water.

Here, Cody attempts the word, "duck."

Sometimes, the ducks and geese would fight over pieces of bread, and the geese would begin honking loudly and nipping at one another.

Our boys found this behavior, and especially the honking noises, quite hilarious!

Eventually, we ran out of bread, so it was no longer fun to just sit and watch the geese. Now, it was time to give 'em some action (at least according to Cody).

This pic is one of my favorites from our morning adventure. :) Cody was having SO much fun!

After the geese feeding and chasing time, we took the boys on a nice stroller ride along the park's walking trails. What a beautiful day!

The next day was another warm and sunny day, so we stopped by a different park on our way to an event at church. The boys LOVED the playground at this park. Jaden and Cody were very proud to show Grandpa how they could slide down the bigger slide all on their own.

 The taller, winding slides are also big hits with our little toddlers. Mommy is so happy that the boys can use most playground equipment fully independently now. It makes park visits much easier! 

Jaden was a big fan of Grandma's pushes on the swing.

Both boys laughed and laughed when Grandpa gave them underdogs. What a treat!

After this quick park visit, we journeyed to church for our monthly "Rock of Ages" gathering. This event is a storytime session for young ones under 5. It's called Rock of Ages because we have senior members of our congregation come, too, and read to the kids in rocking chairs. The boys and I love Rock of Ages and have been attending for over a year. It was nice to have Grandma and Grandpa join us (and to take pics of this event, too-- Mommy doesn't usually have an extra hand for picture taking when we visit.).

As we wait for everyone to arrive, we have free reading time. Grandpa and Cody enjoyed a good book together.

Then, Miss Deb always has a wonderful Bible story narrative. She captures the kids' attention so well with props and pictures and even actions sometimes, too. Following the Bible storytelling, we usually have a type of simple craft and then music time. Dancing to the music is one of the kids' favorite parts. Good thing our boys have a few girls around at this event to teach them all the dance moves!

 These sweet little girls are always so good at including everyone in their little dance.

Another regular outing that Mommy and the boys love attending is our library's Books and Babies time. This weekly storytime is designed for kids under 2. Daddy actually got to join in on the fun this day as well, since it was his day off. Just like Rock of Ages, Books & Babies begins with a bit of free reading. Grandpa and Grandma were GREAT readers!

Our newly rebuilt library has a beautiful story tower, complete with a super tall skylight (that's what Jaden is gazing at in the picture above) and a cozy bench with pillows. Grandpa and Jaden enjoyed relaxing by the colorful pillows with a good book.

Because the kids are all so young, the librarian doesn't actually read a group story. We do a series of fingerplays and a variety of poems and songs, like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Then... it's time for the toy box!

Cody showed Grandpa and Grandma a familiar-looking train (we have the same one at home!).

Jaden loved doing a peg puzzle with Grandma...

...and enjoyed exploring the room with Grandpa. Can you tell that the boys' grandparents are great playmates? :)

Another day, we went on an outing to the grocery store. Now typically, that journey may not seem so special, but it sure is a treat when you get to hold hands with both grandparents!

And just to enjoy the nice weather again, we went to yet another park. This park is only a quick walk from our house, so we visit here quite often. Our active boys like playing on everything at this playground-- but for only about a couple minutes at at time. We jumped around from the swings...

(this time with Daddy and Grandpa BOTH giving underdogs!)...

...and on to the BIG slide. With the boys' athletic pants, they sure flew down the slide quickly! Thankfully, lots of loving hands were there to help on the way down.

Don't be deceived by Cody's terrified expression here. He starts out each downward slide this way but obviously loves it-- once he hits the bottom, he giggles and runs right back to do it again!

Jaden, however, wears a big smile the whole way down! (Surprisingly, both boys are now able to slide down this slide all by themselves. Since G & G's visit, they've figured out how to hold their feet against the sides to slow themselves down.)

After the big slide, it was on to the merry-go-round...

...and then on to the tunnel slide. We've learned all kinds of new ways to slide down this one!

The boys were sure stylin' in their sunglasses on the walk back home. (Okay, so they only wore the glasses for a few seconds... but it makes for a funny couple of pictures at least!)

Our final big outing with Grandpa and Grandma was to an Easter party at our church, put on by our Cradle Roll Guild. When we arrived, we found all kinds of little active games to play. Grandpa showed Jaden just how to toss the pins into the ring on this particular game.

Then, we were free to move around to various craft stations. Daddy and Cody colored a special Easter decoration,

while Mommy and Jaden used stickers to decorate this foam cross.

The boys enjoyed sitting in Grandpa and Grandma's lap for most of the Easter storytime.

And then the party ended with the best part-- an Easter egg hunt! Grandma was so patient with following Cody around with his bag. He knew just what to do.

Jaden found some eggs tucked far into a corner...

and then ran back to Grandpa, who was keeping track of Jaden's eggs.

As you can see, our church is located next to a fairly busy street, so it was helpful to have the boys outnumbered, for a change! :)

Grandma and Grandpa, we appreciate your ready, willing attitudes to join us on all these adventures. You are wonderful helpers for Mommy and Daddy and fun playmates for the boys. Thanks for all of these fun memories. We love you!