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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bailey's 3rd Annual Christmas Advent

I've had a lot of people message me on Facebook asking about the logistics of our Christmas Advent Calendars, so I decided to put it all on the blog. I havent been on writing in the blog as often as I'd like, and it's been on my to do list for a while, so you just gave me an excuse! Thank You!!

Since we have 3 children, we decided to do 3 different types of Advent Calendars, and each child rotates every day by opening 1 thing from each Advent Calendar. This is our 3rd year doing it this way and it works great! As I've mentioned before, my lack of creative family activities throughout the year is made up in the month of December!

The first Advent Calendar was given to us by Steve's mom when we first got married so it's been in our family for 11 years! That just sounds crazy. It's a simple Nativity Advent Calendar with a door for each day that contains something relating to the Nativity Scene and it comes with a card that you read what each item means. I.E. Day 1 is the star, God put the star in the sky to light the way to Bethlehem, and then of course day 24 is baby Jesus.

The second one is the Christmas book Advent. I wrapped 24 Christmas books and the kids get to pick one and open one every day, and that's the story we read that night before bed. The Christmas Quiet Book is what they opened today.

The third one is the Family Activity Advent Calendar. I came up with 24 activities that we can do as a family & typed them all up with pretty Christmas font. Then I printed out 24 numbers, cut them out, & taped them onto small envelopes. I planned the entire month out, putting bigger activities on the weekends and took into account other things going on in the month, and put each activity into the corresponding day. I bought Christmas ribbon and just used mini clothespins to put the envelopes on the ribbon, so it looks like this. :)

Some ideas we are using this year or have used in years past are:

Decorate the tree
Snowman pancakes for dinner
RAK: Random Acts of Kindness; Don't get caught
Glo Stick Bathtime
Picnic by the Christmas Tree
Trip to London to partake in the Christmas Festivities
Drive around to look at lights
Permission to stay up late
Open a present early (this is always on Christmas Eve, and it's always jammies with popcorn & a movie)
Christmas Craft
Christmas Movie Night
Snowball fight indoors using marshmallows
Make gifts for teachers
Write cards to all Classmates
Go through toys & books and donate to shelter
Dance Party
Fancy Dress Dinner
Candy Cane Milkshakes
Baking & Decorating Cookies
Delivering Cookies to neighbors
Super Spy Sibling Shopping trip
Go with mom to buy a present for dad
Go with dad to buy a present for mom
Re read a favorite Christmas Book
Send postcards to family back in the states
Call family & sing Christmas Carols
Camp out by the Christmas Tree
Annual Squadron Christmas Party
Make Reindeer food
Walk through the city centre & enjoy the lights

All the kid's Christmas Artwork will be displayed above the Family Activity Calendar.

So as you can see, some things we do every year & I've just incorporated it in the calendar, and others are just fun things we can do together as a family. Do you have a Family Activity Calendar? Would love to hear new & different ideas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taking time...

WOW... it has been a long time since I've posted on the blog, Sorry everyone!! I plan on getting back into the blog world in the fall once school has started & we get into our routines.  We are enjoying life in England. Travelling every chance we get. Here is just a peak at what we have been up to this summer.
 Some friends & I went & saw Dirty Dancing Live in the West End in London! It was AMAZING!!
 Elora celebrated her 7th Birthday with some classmates. Luau Style. 
 A trip to Banham Zoo
 A Day out with Thomas! Showing our face paintings!
 All excited to see Thomas the Train!
 Teddy Bear Picnic with MOPS!
 Punting in Cambridge

Having a nice day out at a nearby Garden. 

See you again in a few months!! :) 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All those pins...

I went on a crazy pinning night where everything I pinned on pinterest were outfits that I liked. Then the days that followed I found myself at the computer trying to find that one outfit so I could match it. Then it occurred to me I should print these out and put them in my closet for some outfit inspiration. So VOILA!

 I can't wait to do it again in the Spring!!
 I bought a pack of 4 square cork boards covered them with 12x12 scrapbook paper, copy & pasted my fav outfits onto word to fit as many onto one page as possible, then just print & cut them out. The pack of cork boards came with adhesive to stick them to the wall & I just used pins I already had & pinned up the outfits! Very Simple!

Since I LOVE my closet so much I'll throw in a few pictures of that as well! 

I also LOVE my tie rack, it's perfect for hanging all my necklaces... I think I need another one!

Then I store all my earrings in the craft/tackle box and my other misc. jewelry rings etc. in the jewelry Box.
Next project is to paint the vanity and reupholster the stool. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chore Chart

For a couple years now, Steve & I have been tossing around ideas for our children when it comes to chores.  We've read tons of articles and talked to other Parents with older children, I think we've heard it all. When it comes down to it though, we've learned that all children and all families are different. So this is what works for our family.

We believe that our children should do chores as members of this family to help out around the house. We also believe that they should get an allowance to start teaching them the importance & value of money & saving. Where we felt conflicted; we didn't want them to do chores only for money and we also didn't want to just give them an allowance every week, we want them to feel proud of what they've accomplished & think about what they are spending their allowance on and by just giving it to them neither of those things would happen.

We tried saying "this is your chore you need to do it every day." We found that without an incentive they didn't want to do it, and not only that but let's face it we don't have the energy and shouldn't have to keep reminding them 10 times a day to do their chores and then what happens in the end, mom ends up doing the said chore anyway.

So I came up with a Chore Chart!

That is visual enough for my 2 year old to understand but exciting enough for the 6 year old to use it. This chart holds them responsible for doing their own chores & will allow them to see results.

How I made it: 
I went onto Amazon and browsed their selection of Pocket Calendars, and chose the behavior chart, the link is below.

Then while I was waiting for that to ship I came up with age appropriate chores for each kid. Then I just went onto Word & found Clip Art matching each chore. I also Color Coded everything per day to make it a little easier to keep track.  After I made all the names, days of the week, individual chore cards, & tickets, I cut them out, laminated them and cut them again. The chore cards are about the size of a business card.

Here is a list of the chores we have, which will change as they get older.
Each kid has- morning & evening routine, clean bed room, clean play room, and putting clothes away.
6 Year old- in addition to chores mentioned above sweep 1 room, empty dishwasher, feed the cat.
4 year old- in addition to chores mentioned above, dust 1 room, tidy front door (shoes, jackets, etc.)
2 year old- just has the 4 basic chores mentioned above, but obviously needs more guidance when doing some things, like putting clothes away, all the kids' dressers are labeled, pictures & words; with what goes in which drawer, shirts, pants, etc. so I'll make piles of like items for the 2 year old & he'll put them in the correct drawer. Just an example of how each chore is age appropriate and the expectations are different for each depending on their age.

As a side note. We have a seperate picture chart that shows our morning & evening routine, this has really helped our middle child stay on track. So for now we have included the morning & evening routine as part of their chores, until the routine is established.

How it works:
 Each day as a child does their chore they will flip it over & put it behind the other chore cards. At the end of the day or week we count up how many chores they have done & they get a ticket.

For the tickets, I just used clip art on Word & printed them off in different colors corresponding to the days of the week colors.

At the end of the week they can spend their tickets and shop at the "Mom and Dad Store" save their tickets to get a bigger item from the "M&D store" or trade their tickets in for money. 1 ticket= .10 cents.

For the M&D Store I just used a basket and went out & bought things that the kids enjoy doing. Play doh, art supplies, sticks of gum, match box cars, dino figures, coloring books, reading books, bonne bell chapsticks, jewels, stickers, action figures(on the cheaper side). Then I used garage sale stickers and just priced everything. If something cost me $1.00 then it is 10 tickets, I open any packages of multiple things like a pack of 2 headbands, 1 would cost 5 tickets. A pack of 5 lizards from the $1.00 store would be 2 tickets for each lizard; and so on.  I just keep a nice stock of things, and when I see things when I'm out and about I'll get them to add to the M&D store.

We've been using this chart for almost a month now, and every Saturday the children are super excited to see how many tickets they've earned & what they can buy. My oldest has saved her Christmas money & traded 2 weeks of chore tickets to buy a La La Loopsy. The 4 year old did just enough of his chores to trade in his tickets for a green lantern action figure, it took him 3 weeks & a few encouraging words but he finally did it and is so proud of that action figure you'd think it was gold!

Hopefully that made sense, if not feel free to ask questions!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Warwick, UK

Our first adventure in the new year was to Warwick. Some friends of ours told us about Warwick Castle & how it wasn't to be missed. Before we go anywhere I usually try and do research about it before hand so we know what to look out for, what to skip with 3 young kids, etc. One of my favorite things to do is to find the treasure's that others have missed, and it is even doable with the kiddos. So here are my thoughts & opinions  on Warwick. First, we went early January, it was a gorgeous day and there weren't any crowds.
Warwick is about a 2 hour drive from where we live, about an hour into it the kids started asking "Are we almost there?" This coming from my kids who often take an hour drive four times a week to the base and back. This means 2 things; the drive was very boring, & we haven't taken long day trips in a while. That must be changed. 

We started our journey at 9:30 and arrived around 11:45.Once we arrived, we headed straight to Warwick Castle. Our thoughts on this were since we had to pay admission we would do everything we could at the castle and if there was any time remaining we would venture out.

Parking for Warwick Castle was £6. The walk from the Car park to the castle was about 5 minutes but it reminded me of a scene from the movie The Labyrinth.

Once we got to the ticket counter I asked if there was a discount for English Heritage members and it turns out there is; 50% off so it cost us £43 for all 4 of us, Dylan was free since he's under 3. That equals out to be approx. $70 with today's exchange rate. Initial reaction was that it was expensive just to see a Castle. Here are some more pictures with descriptions of our exciting adventure at Warwick Castle.

The Great Hall, the largest room in the Castle
The State Dining Room. 1763; George IV & Edward VII dined here among many others.

Queen Elizabeth I Saddle & handkerchief

The Cedar Drawing Room; everything in the room dates to 1670
The Queen Anne Bedroom; Queen Anne sent her bed ahead of her and her trip ended up being cancelled but the bed stayed at the castle. The Leather Chest also belonged to Queen Anne. Another interesting fact she had 17 children and only 1 survived infancy.

the Library 

The Ladies Boudoir; french inspired room

Built in the 1600's on top of a site of another chapel founded in 1119. There was a TINY area marked off by a partition that was where the servants were required to attend chapel.
The Music Room

Countess of Warwick's Bedroom;1800's

3 towers & the tower Wall. Total of 530 steps! Elora started crying about 1/2 way through and said  "We're going to die, we're never getting home!"

530 steps & Steve carried Dylan up and down all of them. I'd highly suggest if you have younger kids,  do not climb the towers, you can still see great views from the top of the mound which is much easier for the little ones to climb. 

Kid's Favorite things:
Elora age 6- The Princess Tower; no photography was allowed in there but it was a short 10 minute show about a Princess getting ready for a wedding.
Derek age 4- The dueling show; again a short 10 minute instruction on the dueling gents & the tower climbing
Dylan age 2- The playground & The Bird show.

After we had seen, walked, & climbed all that we could at Warwick Castle, without paying extra and doing everything that was age appropriate for our Children we were done around 3:30. I knew for sure I wanted to visit St. Mary's Church, there is just something about Cathedrals that draw me to them, the architecture, the religion, the history, probably all of the above. Entrance was free, but we donated £4.

Interior Looking East

Close up of the stained Glass

Earl of Warwick & his wife Katherine entombed together

Richard Beuchamp, Earl of Warwick's tomb. He oversaw the execution of Joan of Arc.

Beuchamp Chapel 

Interior Looking West
William Parr; brother of Queen Katherine Parr and leading courtier during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I more in next pic

By the time we were done at St. Mary's everything was closing, so that ended our day. We had a great time,  we built some memories, and we took a step back into time. Would I say that Warwick Castle was worth the 1/2 off admission, not really. $70 is really expensive for 4 people to see a castle, but I'm glad we did it once & got to see as much as we did, but there is so much more to see and do around England.