Monday, December 31, 2012

In 2012 we counted...

2 moves
2 new cousins
2 very special sleepovers with Momma & Poppa (Aurora)
3 states lived in
3 months completely deprived of chocolate (Regina)
4 birthdays
7 months of no tomatoes (Regina)
8 long trips
11 new teeth (9 for Quinn and 2 wisdom teeth for Regina)
11 months and counting of almost no caffeine (Regina)
13 museums visited
16 visits from grandparents
16 pacifiers (Quinn)
68 boardgames played (Wil)
74 blog posts
138 videos recorded
4,188 miles traveled as a family* (approximately)
      *for Wil, add 3,260 more miles (approximately)
4,304 pictures taken

Things I wish I had counted but didn't (or couldn't):

ketchup bottles gone through
books read
craft projects completed
cookies baked
diapers used
laundry loads
library books checked out
gallons of water splashed out of the tub

Happy New Year!!

~Regina (and the rest of the family)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas lights!

Note: Picasa and Google+ have changed how you set the visibility of photo albums, so if you can't see these photos, please let me know. I'm still trying to figure out what the new settings mean.

Several nights ago we went to a near-by park that does a yearly lights display. It was beautiful! This towering Christmas tree was at the entrance to the park. It was taller than the 2 story carousel nearby--I'm pretty sure it was close to 3 stories tall.
Our sweet kiddos were fascinated by all the beautiful lights and did great, despite staying up past their bedtimes.
Some of the light displays were slightly odd, like this rooster (Wil is convinced it was actually a phoenix).
Aurora loved this fairy display.
And this dragon was amazing! It was made of Chinese porcelain bowls, spoons, plates, and tea cups. So creative!
A tunnel of lights!
A princess castle!
Chinese lanterns.
Weeping willow trees of lights. Can you see Aurora's orange glow necklace in this picture?
In dinosaur land! This T-rex actually moved and growled. Aurora was a bit worried about it.
And, at the very end, there was fake snow! It was actually tiny clusters of bubbles but it worked very well as fake snow. Aurora spent quite a while dancing around in it. :)

Merry Christmas!


(And if you've been wondering about videos, my computer is having trouble with the video editing programs I've used in the past so I haven't been doing videos recently.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Creative Solutions: Our Christmas Tree!

Being in California over the holiday season has created some annoying problems. Nothing serious and nothing that really even mattered, but still things that bother me. One of those things is the problem of a Christmas tree. We have a small, pre-lit Christmas tree that is perfec tfor a family with small children--but there's no way we could bring that out to California with us. We aren't allowed a real Christmas tree in the apartment (fire hazard) and we didn't want to buy a fake one for just the few weeks we'd use it while here, so I started trying to think of a new idea.

Inspired by my success with our Thankfulness tree, I started searching for tutorials on string Christmas trees...and struck out. There are a few, but they're all ugly! I had just about thrown out the idea when a picture popped into my head. I had been fixated on doing a tree like this:
But a tree like this would work much better in string:
 And, so, I set out to see if I could make a simple squiggly tree. I used painter's tape to make sure my tree was close to being an equilateral triangle shape...

...and added my pushpins along the edge of the tape. I somewhat offset the pushpins on opposite sides so that my zig-zagging yarn would do more of a V shape than a Z shape (it'll make sense later). I did NOT push the pins all the way into the wall, I wanted the yarn to wrap around the metal part first.
Then I tied one end of my yarn onto the top of the tree and started...
Back and forth, back and forth...but I didn't pull the yarn too tightly, just tight enough so it wouldn't sag, because I didn't want to put so much force on the pushpins that they'd pull out of the wall.
I had a little helper who was refusing to go to bed at a decent hour...
Once I got to the bottom of the tree, I started back up for a second layer. On the second (and subsequent) layer, it's hard to tell which pushpin is your next one, so you kind of have to trace the yarn that's already there, otherwise you might end up with some criss-crosses like below.
After I had done three layers of yarn, I pushed the pushpins all the way into the wall. Nice and flat!
Then I added three more layers of yarn wrapped around the plastic part of the pushpin. This layering gives the tree some dimension and fullness.
Now for the trunk! I eye-balled the middle and added pushpins in approximately two straight lines, slightly offset.
I zig-zagged and layered the brown yarn just like I had done the green yarn. If you look closely, you will see that I didn't off-set the trunk pushpins quite as well as I did the tree pushpins, so the trunk looks like it's made up of very stretched out Zs while the tree looks more like very stretched out Vs.
Finally, start adding some decorations! We originally planned to add some Christmas lights to the tree, but decided that they would be too heavy and difficult to secure to the wall with pushpins alone, so we left them off.

Sorry for the bad picture; the tree is in a corner of the room where it's dark even during the day time. From tip-top to the bottom of the trunk the tree measures about 46 inches tall.
And here's a tree for the kids, down where they can reach it. This one was actually my first one and is only 36 inches tall. The bells do NOT stay on it. I keep meaning to do some origami stars for the tops but haven't gotten around to it yet.
It's been over two weeks since I made these trees and we've only had two incidents where the yarn has been pulled off of the push-pins. Both times we've been able to recover the yarn and save the tree before it became awfully tangled with some sort of toy. I keep worrying that someone is going to pull out a bunch of pushpins, but amazingly that hasn't happened (yet). Really, these trees probably aren't the safest things for a family with two small children, but they are working amazingly well.

So that was our solution for a Christmas tree this year! I feel like our Christmas this year should have a tagline: "Christmas by push-pin!" :)


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Thankfulness Tree

Somewhere in my wanderings on the internet, I was introduced to the idea of a Thankfulness tree. You pin up some sort of vaguely tree-shaped thing on the wall and add leaves to it that list what you and your children are thankful for. It's a fun way to help children remember what Thanksgiving is all about. Of course, my post on this is very late, but maybe this will give someone an idea for next year.

I decided I wanted to do a Thankfulness tree with our kids but try as I might in the short time we had a car available to us at the beginning of November, I couldn't find the right kind of butcher paper for my tree. So I decided to go a different route: a string tree! I've seen string art all over the internet. It's pretty popular right now, so it was easy to find some tutorials on how people have done string trees in their houses. I used these two tutorials to guide me: Saucy Dwellings and Apartment Therapy.

After reading those posts several times, I finally decided to give it a try. I was quiet nervous. I started by putting a bunch of pushpins in to be my trunk.

 Then I started looping the yarn around all the pins, adding more pins as I went. My tree definitely doesn't look as good as the ones in the tutorials, but since it was my first try, I didn't worry about it too much.
 After an hour of work, I had this. Pretty good! I definitely got better at the branches and twigs as I got further into the project.
 And... done! It only took about 1.5 hrs. Sure, it's not amazing, but it certainly looks better than our formerly boring blank wall.

 The first "leaves of thankfulness" were put up right away. The kids were quite excited about the tree. Every evening at dinner, we added more leaves. Sometimes Aurora needed some prompting to think of things she was thankful for and other times she didn't need help at all. With Quinn, we just guessed. His leaves say things like "forks!", "pacifiers" and "food." Hehe.
 At the end of November, this is what the tree looked like. We forgot to add leaves some nights, but other days we all added several. I estimate that there are 80-100 leaves on the tree at this point. I loved doing our "reverse" fall tree. :)
 So, there you go, you who have inquired about our tree. Will we do it next year? I'm not sure. I don't really like the idea of putting 200+ holes in the walls of our rental home in TN (it's not as big of a deal here because they expect to do a thorough repair of each apartment when a tenant moves out). I might try to find butcher paper again for next year. :) We shall see!


Friday, December 14, 2012

They Hear Everything!

A few days ago we had an especially hard day. Quinn had hard a hard time sleeping that night (and for 4-5 days before). I was dead on my feet and, like I've heard kids can do, my kids apparently could smell my exhaustion and went after me all day long.

Finally Wil got home and both kids stepped up their game even more and simultaneously tantrumed. Over the chaos I yelled to Wil, "I just want to go hide under the covers on our bed!" Later, when the kids calmed down, Aurora came out of her room pulling a blanket. I asked her what she was doing and she said, "For you to hide under, Mommy!" :)

Sometimes it scares me what my kids hear and pick up on, even when they're throwing a massive, self-centered tantrum. At least when they get over it, they're both sweethearts.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Official: He's a Toddler

First, he learned to say "ba ba!" while waving to people and we melted at the adorableness. Then, he learned to say "uh-oh" and we giggled at how precious it was. Next, he learned to say "ah-duh!" (all done) and we rejoiced that he could communicate that concept. Finally, he learned to scream "Na na na na na!" (no!) at the top of his lungs and we covered our smirks and tried to teach him to use an inside voice.

I think he's officially a toddler now: he has learned the word "no", knows how to use it, and won't take "no" for an answer. I think I'll keep living in denial and keep calling him "my baby."