Saturday, December 31, 2016

Advent Box Activities - Part 1

Every day in December leading up to Christmas, Jaden and Cody opened up a box on our Advent calendar. The box contained either a candy treat for them to eat (even right away after breakfast!) or a note telling them about a special activity to come later that day. Jaden and Cody showed much more enthusiasm about the Advent boxes this year compared to years past. They excitedly asked to open the boxes first thing in the morning (rather than us having to remind them in previous years), and they'd even talk about the Advent boxes throughout the day. It was so precious to see and hear the boys' excitement, and we loved having many excuses to create some family memories together in the busy month of December.

Cody and Jaden took turns opening the boxes each morning. This was the first year I thought about using clip art on my little notes to the boys, so they were actually able to "read" many of the notes they opened.

Some of our Advent box activities involved doing something together as a family at home (like game night by the lights of the Christmas tree) while others included outings (like going out for fro-yo). Here are some pictures of a few of our family activities:

Family Sports Day
This idea was solely Jason's, and it turned out to be so much fun! We started by playing 2-on-2 soccer in the front yard (Cody is depicted throwing in an out-of-bounds ball below). Although it may appear like photo-taking Mommy wasn't being a very active teammate, I did run around a bit and kick the ball to my partner. :) Not too surprisingly, however, whichever twin was on Daddy's team always seemed to win.

After soccer, Daddy designed a version of T-ball that involved hitting the ball and then running to just one base (marked off by a square of cones).

Finally, the boys practiced teeing off with golf clubs and wiffle balls.

Daddy is such a great sports instructor for our little guys! 

Night in Bethlehem
Unfortunately, the church that Matt and Kim's family had always gone to in years past for this event-- complete with real camel and donkey rides-- was taking a hiatus on their Journey through Bethlehem night this year. Thankfully we found another church that sponsored a similar event. This new church set up several stations to mimic a small biblical village where kids could complete various activities. We attended the event with Matt and Kim's family on an evening that was fairly chilly for us Texans. (See, we DO wear coats and stocking hats on occasion here!). One of the first stations was a storytelling tent where this guy dressed as a shepherd retold some of the Christmas story.

Then, the boys tried their hand at some loom weaving.

Cody also made a money pouch by threading the top of this burlap circle. Jaden wasn't interested in this particular activity.

Both boys tried this game where they were supposed to toss a few rocks in the air, pick up new stones from the ground, and then catch the original tossed rocks. Neither Cody or Jaden had the coordination for this game, but Ian did quite well with it!

The boys' favorite station was the carpentry hut where they got to pound wooden dowels into this table full of holes over and over again. What a brilliant idea for these little ones! Cody, Jaden, Ryan and Nathan could have stayed at this station forever!

Towards the back of the "village," one station was set up like a stable, complete with an angel with the tips of her hair dyed green and a real baby Jesus (fully clothed and using a pacifier). Ha! I certainly don't blame these parents for doing all they could to make their baby comfortable. I was impressed they agreed to let their baby lie in the manger on this chilly evening!

We also got to hear a group of shepherds and wise men sing a few Christmas carols.

These two ladies gave out samples of food from Biblical times. The boys tried various nuts, dates, figs, pomegranates, and some other dried fruit.

At one of the last stations, the boys tried out some musical instruments, like drums and these harps pictured below. 

While it was a bummer to miss the donkey and camel rides at the old church's event, we thought that this church provided a nice array of activities. Most of all, I appreciated having an Advent activity that focused on the true meaning of Christmas and having a reason to discuss Bethlehem and Biblical times with Jaden and Cody.

Breakfast in Bed
This simplest of all Advent box activities has to be one of the boys' favorites. Both Cody and Jaden started jumping up and down when they "read" the activity slip that told them they could have breakfast in bed. Typically, Jaden and Cody prefer dry cereal in the morning, so we had a very easy, non-messy breakfast experience.

German Festival
Twice each year, our community holds a downtown German festival since so many of the town roots are German. We attended once last year and enjoyed it, so the activity was back on the Advent box list again. This year, Jaden and Cody were tall enough to try out a couple more of the rides which was exciting. We let the boys pick two rides to try out. They rode on this dragon roller coaster...

...and this spinning dog ride. They asked to go by themselves on both of the rides, so Mommy and Daddy enjoyed observing from the sidelines. (We also appreciated not having to pay the exorbitant costs for extra ride tickets!)

At the festival, we heard a few German musical performances,

posed by the fancy Christmas trees,

tried out a few snacks (like these yummy brownies),

and watched this high school German dance group perform. Their dances didn't seem all too complicated, but they were interesting enough to watch.

Many of the rest of our Advent box activities were done with Grandpa and Grandma when they arrived in town, so stay tuned for Part 2. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Baby Update

I just mentioned to a friend the other day that I feel like our poor new baby is already the neglected child. :) When I was pregnant with Jaden and Cody, I remembered to take regular pregnant belly pics, write weekly in a journal about their development, and keep others posted about their little lives in utero. With this pregnancy, however, life just marches on like normal, and I forget to take time to appreciate this little miracle that is growing inside of me! 

In addition, we have done absolutely nothing yet to prepare for a nursery or to ready our home for a baby. By this point with the boys, our nursery was practically complete and much of our baby gear was purchased and set up! I guess our lateness is to be expected with child #3, but I can't help but feel a little guilty. It DOES make me feel better to think about just how much time baby will demand from us in just a few short months, so I guess it will all even out. All these baby preparations will get done eventually.

Most importantly, we have been readying our hearts for this little addition to our family-- praying for her daily, talking about her with our boys, and thinking about the changes that she will bring to our lives. We feel so blessed that God has brought this little girl into our lives, and even though our house is far from ready to welcome a baby, our hearts are so eager to meet her!

Here our a few pics of our growing girl and her growing mommy. :)

Week 18 Belly Pic

Week 21 Ultrasound Photos
Our OB loves doing ultrasounds. We have enjoyed seeing images of our little girl at most of our appointments. We are thankful that she is developing well so far. At this particular appointment, baby's measurements were 2 weeks ahead of schedule. So, baby will either have an earlier birthday (perhaps even sometime in late February) or be a large baby!

Week 23 Belly Pic
Baby has grown to be quite active inside of Mommy lately. Daddy enjoys feeling baby's many kicks, most of which come in the late hours of the day. We think we have another night owl on our hands! Jaden and Cody have felt their baby sister move as well. A few times the kicks have come when the boys are sitting on Mommy's lap and listening to her read a story. Cody and Jaden have found this quite amusing!

 Week 26 Ultrasounds
Our doctor particularly liked these fun shots of baby at our Week 26 appointment. First, you should be able to see baby's legs crossed at the ankles in the picture below.


In these pics, you can see baby's face which is partially covered by an arm. In the second picture (which is an identical viewpoint), baby almost appears to be smiling! How many parents can say their child's first smile was in utero?! Love it! :)

We are thankful for baby's healthy development so far and for a smooth pregnancy for mommy, too! It truly is a miracle to see God knitting this child together inside the womb. What a precious gift. We can't wait to meet you, sweet girl! And we promise to have a bedroom for you soon! ;)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Half Birthday

On December 2, Cody and Jaden officially turned 4 1/2 years old. Thankfully, I remembered the occasion just a few days in advance, so we had enough time to get the boys excited about having a small celebration. That evening, we went out to dinner as a family to Texas Roadhouse, only because we had a gift card and two free kids' meal coupons given to the boys from the library summer reading program. Cody and Jaden loved the restaurant peanuts but thought the rest of the meal was only so-so. Good thing we didn't have to pay for their half-eaten meals!

After dinner, we stopped by Grammy and Papa's house so they could help the boys eat dessert. Grammy took out some noisemakers which of course was a hit.

For dessert we served funfetti cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sang "Happy Half Birthday" to both Cody and Jaden.

In recognition of the "half" celebration, only half of each cupcake was decorated with sprinkles.

I think Jaden polished off his entire cupcake while Cody simply ate the frosted top half.

In so many ways, our 4 1/2 year olds seem so grown up and independent... independent from Mommy and Daddy at least! While Cody and Jaden certainly do have individual personalities, they are definitely each other's best companions and rarely play apart from each other. They often get hooked on the same things at the same time, so the following list of favorites is the same for each boy:

Favorite Activities: building Lego sets, coloring pictures (both boys are quite good at staying in the lines and are somewhat perfectionistic about doing so!), riding bikes in our driveway and around the block, dressing up in costumes, listening to stories, playing with matchbox cars, giving puppet shows

Favorite Games: the matching game with our Disney cards, Uno, Buzz, Chutes and Ladders

Favorite TV shows: Wild Kratts, Nature Cat, Curious George

Favorite Books: Bernstein Bears, Flat Stanley, Nate the Great

These two silly, energetic boys bring so much joy to our lives. God has truly blessed us! Happy Half Birthday, Cody and Jaden!