Friday, June 19, 2015

April Playdates

The month of April was, sadly, our last month to participate in our Billings playgroup. The first April gathering we had was an Easter-themed playdate at our home. By the time everyone arrived and got settled, the kids were hungry for snack, so we started in the kitchen. We were happy to include a couple of the older siblings that day, since it was a non-school day, so we had a good crew of kids. (Be sure to notice two of the littlest playgroup members in the high chair and booster at the end of the table.)

For our Easter snack, I had put a variety of finger foods into different colored eggs. The kids first had to collect one of each color egg from a bowl. The hardest part was waiting to open the eggs until all the kids had a full plate of eggs! Some of the kids tried to shake the eggs and guess what was inside.

Each color of egg contained the same type of food (that way, I could be sure that each child received all parts of the snack). 

 As the kids opened the eggs, they found strawberries, carrots, craisins, pretzels, grapes...

...and these fun Easter flowers. I LOVED how these turned out, and they were super easy to make. Place white chocolate melts atop a pretzel (the square pretzels worked best), melt in the oven, and then stick on the M&Ms. These tasty treats went fast!

Jenna planned egg races for our activity. The kids used paper plates as fans to move plastic eggs across the floor.

As you can tell by the pictures, the older kids (above) could keep control of their eggs a little more easily. For the younger ones, the eggs went everywhere. It was hilarious! Both groups seemed to enjoy the effort.

Samie brought the craft for the morning. The kids assembled their own chicks & eggs using a variety of foam decorations.

Cody and Jaden requested my help during this activity, as the sticker backs were a little difficult for them to remove on their own.

We loved seeing all the unique designs that the children came up with!

Isn't our little chick family precious? :)

Our last April playdate was a Earth Day/spring/planting theme. Because the weather was starting to get much more pleasant, we planned the gathering at a park. Most of the playdate, then, was just free-play on the playground, but we did have a couple of planned activities. Ruth made the snack SO fun for the kids! She started out by talking about planting and asking the kids what items they need to plant flowers. Then, she brought out the "dirt" (chocolate cake crumbles) and added "fertilizer" (crushed oatmeal, nuts, and I believe a couple other healthy items). Some of the kids weren't quite sure if these items were going to be edible or not! She scooped up a serving for each child into a cup, and then added "water" (actually a small bit of milk).

Some of the kids looked a bit tentative about their cup of dirt. But when Ruth brought out the "seeds" (jellybeans) they were supposed to plant, the kids looked much more comfortable! I'm not sure any of the seeds actually got planted into the dirt before they were devoured. :)

 The real treat was when Ruth brought out the worms!

It was a little hard for me to get great pics of this, as my little boys needed Mommy by their side much of this morning. Unfortunately, a park employee had picked this particular day to mow all of the grass at this park. The large, loud mower was a little intimidating for Jaden and especially for Cody (for as much as they love vehicles, they do NOT love being close to loud ones!). Poor Cody's expression in this pic showcases his mood for much of the playdate, unfortunately!

After snacktime, the kids happily played on the equipment and in the park's large sandbox (as long as the mower was far away, at least!). Unbeknownst to me, the other ladies were secretly having the kids work on a craft at the same time.... 

Before we left the park, my friends presented me with this beautiful canvas picture. Each flower contained the name and fingerprint of every child in our playgroup. What a beautiful going-away gift for our family!

Finally, we gathered all the kids together for a final group photo. We were excited that we could actually see everyone's face... and no one was wailing!

Jaden, Hannah, Wes, Cody, Kenzie, Micah, Abby, Ryder, Evelyn
 This playgroup was such a wonderful blessing, both to my boys and to me, during our time in Billings. Thank you to Samie, Ruth, and Jenna for all of your creative ideas and for making this group a priority each month. You are all wonderful mommies and dear friends.
 Love you and miss you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Home Buying Trip

Our whirlwind began with a phone call from Jason's old college roommate. It quickly developed into a phone call with the pastor from his church and then an on-site interview/visit. Before we knew it, Jason had received a call from Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, TX, desiring him to serve as their Director of Children's Ministry. This was a very difficult call for us to wrestle with, as our Billings circle of friends had become such a wonderful family to us over the past 8 years. We have loved living in Montana! On the other hand, we felt a strong pull to serve at Salem, and a move to Texas would bring us much, much closer to family.

After several weeks of much discussion, prayers, and tears, Jason officially accepted the call to Salem, and we started to make preparations for our move. One of our largest to-dos was to find a home in Texas. Right after Easter, our entire family flew down to Houston to begin the real-estate search. This long-weekend visit was full of gatherings at the church and time with our realtor. Thankfully, we had LOTS of willing family members to watch Cody and Jaden during these busy days. Grandpa and Grandma were still in Spring following cousin Isaiah's baptism, so it was an extra blessing to have their help too! Here, Grandpa builds a Duplo castle with Cody...

...and, another day, shows him how to use the toy cash register.

Grandma played cars and trucks with the boys,

and read a few stories to them.

Aunt Kim had some great ideas for playtime with Mommy and Daddy away. They easily filled a whole table up with play-dough activities.

Aunt Chelsea got some great giggles out of Jaden and Cody...

...and read stories to a whole clan of Schleicher boys!

Ryan took his cousins out for a spin in the cul-de-sac. He is quite the accomplished driver for a 3-year-old!

Cody took a turn at the wheel, too. Thankfully Ryan was patient with Cody's amateur driving!

Jaden and Cody enjoyed some cuddle time with their cousin Nathan. We can tell that Nathan is used to being held by other little boys! He was a patient kiddo. :)

Aunt Amy liked having some Nathan-time also. It's fun to hold such a smiley boy!

A big side benefit of our trip was having the chance to meet our newest little nephew Isaiah for the first time. 

Jaden and Cody were very excited about holding their 1-month-old cousin. 

He's certainly a precious little guy!

We are sure that Isaiah will get along quite well with all of his cousins. Look at this group of Schleicher boys!

This is always my favorite part of the kid-photos... seeing all the parents acting completely goofy behind the camera!

Although our time with family was quite brief during this trip, we enjoyed the time together. We even got in on a special Alumni Family Picnic that Jonathan had organized for Concordia. It was our first official Texas crawfish boil.

God certainly worked through the details in our home search... we found a house that we LOVED within just a couple days. (Jason had been eyeing this same house online for quite some time. We were thrilled that it was still on the market!) Because our Montana home had sold quickly (again, another wonderful God-given blessing), we were able to put an offer on this home AND get an inspection done before our flight back to Montana.

This trip certainly made our upcoming move seem a lot more official. We were filled with a mixture of excitement, sadness, nervousness, and exhaustion as we thought about our transition ahead. 

Thankfully, we serve a God who never changes, a God who promises His presence and love despite our life circumstances. Jesus' strength and peace is such a comfort during times of earthly change. We knew we would need to depend heavily upon Him in the months to come. Our new adventure was just beginning!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Easter Activities

The Schleichers are back to the blogging world! :) Life has been quite a whirlwind for our family lately as we have just completed a huge cross-country move. Keeping up with our blog has taken a back seat during this time of busyness. Now, however, we're ready to get caught up again so we can share some of our family's new adventures. I believe we last left off at Eastertime... 

On the Saturday before Easter, the boys and I went to a large community egg hunt. (Click on the pic below to see just how many eggs are on the ground behind Jaden and Cody.) 

We attended this same egg hunt last year, and I was eager to see how much more involved the boys would be at age 2 1/2 compared to 1 1/2. We arrived early to get a good spot before the hunt started, so here are the boys lounging out before the egg-hunt countdown begins.

The first "hunt" (it can hardly be called that when all the eggs are in plain sight...) was for ages birth to 3. The boys brought along Easter bags they had made at our church's Cradle Roll Easter party from the previous weekend.

Notice that Cody and Jaden (and Mommy, too, for that matter!) are standing on the inside of the yellow tape line. They were SO eager to begin collecting eggs!

Unfortunately, here is where our egg hunt experience took a downward spiral. As soon as the 3-2-1 countdown ends, Mommy rushed out into the field with Jaden and Cody to grab some eggs. All of a sudden, Cody started sobbing and talking about "the white egg." I couldn't figure out whether he had his eye on a certain egg that another kid took first or if he was overwhelmed by the big rush of people around him (could've been anything... he's a 2-year-old!). Once I finally got him calmed down, we looked around and saw an egg-free field. The hunt was done! Cody had dropped the only egg he had (the one that Mommy put into his hands), so his bag was completely empty! Jaden, on the other hand, was happy to hunt (see him picking up some eggs below), but during Cody's meltdown I made Jaden stay by me so that I wouldn't lose sight of him in the crowds.

We ended our egg hunt with a grand total of SIX eggs. I made a huge deal about how fun it would be to look inside the eggs, and Jaden sweetly offered to share his eggs with Cody. (Phew!) Neither of them seemed to mind at all that they only had 3 eggs apiece to open (though Mommy was a bit sad for them, especially when over half of the eggs contained taffy that was too hard for them to chew!). Good thing Easter is about much more than just egg hunts... :) Here's Cody with his entire cache of eggs.

Thankfully, our experience wasn't completely a dud. Following the egg hunt, we stood in line to slide down these inflatables. Cody and Jaden LOVED it! They probably waited in line and slid 6 or 7 times.

The church sponsoring this event also gave out free hot dogs, so we took advantage of that as well. I think this was Cody and Jaden's first experience eating a full hot dog on a bun (they typically enjoy the bun separately). They were pretty pumped about their BIG hot dog! :)

Later that same day, we did some Easter egg dyeing. Jaden wanted his froggy to join us for the experience.

The boys helped me get set up and were VERY interested in the tablets that colored the water.

I don't think they were quite sure yet what was happening with the eggs, but they enjoyed picking out which color to start with...

...and were surprisingly very patient while waiting for the dyeing process.

When we removed the first egg from the dye, Jaden's reaction was just precious! I captured it on the video below... 

We couldn't exactly master the egg holders or the spoons for lifting out the eggs, but both boys still had fun trying.

Here are a few of our completed eggs. Jaden and Cody were very proud (as evidenced by their ready willingness to pose for a picture).

On Easter morning, Cody and Jaden were thrilled to find their Easter baskets full of goodies. Since this was the boys' first year with an Easter basket o' treats, Jason and I chose to give them a sampling of a few traditional Easter favorites so we could see which treats they most enjoyed.

Right away, they were especially curious about the Peeps.

Even though marshmallows are a hit in our household, these Peeps were not. One bite and the boys were done.

The Pez candies, however, were an instant hit. Don't be fooled by Jaden's lack of enthusiasm in the picture below. :) Both boys ate their entire sleeve of candy before Mommy knew what was going on! And in case you're curious, Pez, M&M's, and Jelly Belly jelly beans were the top-ranking treats of the day.

Of course, egg hunting and egg dying and candy eating are all just extras. The main reason for Easter is the celebration of our Savior Jesus and his victory over death. What a beautiful thing it is to attend that joyful service on Easter morning-- my personal favorite of the year! Jaden and Cody were ready to celebrate, too, in their Easter finest. Grammy and Papa gifted them with these adorable 3-piece suits (their first ever!).

Good smiles were hard to come by this morning, even with a bribe of jelly beans!

Here are a couple of our picture "outtakes," which certainly capture a more realistic everyday view of our active little guys!

Even though Easter is far removed on your calendars by now, we pray that the season is never far removed from your hearts. Jesus is alive, and He loves you deeply. May you rejoice in His resurrection each day!