Thursday, September 26, 2013

3 Fun Pumpkin Activities To Do With Kids

September has flown by already! I thought we would have a little longer summer, but as soon as autumn was *officially* here on the 22nd, we were hit with chilly weather! Lucky for me, fall is my favorite season! What's there not to love about kids going back to school, the leaves changing into the prettiest of colors, and more importantly pumpkins?! I'm fortunate to have guest blogger Ryan N. blogging for me this week. Have fun with your pumpkins! My boys sure did!

In October we start seeing pumpkin pies, pumpkin flavored drinks, and of course, Jack-o’-lanterns all over.  There is no doubt that October is the pumpkin month, so why not embrace it for some family fun?  From play dough to pirates to pumpkin patches, here are 3 fun pumpkin activities and crafts that you can do with your whole family. 

Play Dough Pumpkin Faces

Jack-o’-lantern carving is a treasured Halloween tradition, but it is messy, requires sharp tools, and can only be done once per pumpkin.  If your kids try making pumpkin faces with play dough, thumb tacks, magic markers, and paper or fabric cut outs, the possibilities for each pumpkin are endless.  With these materials, your children can make as many silly, scary or angry faces as they would like.

To get started, clean all dirt and dust off of the pumpkin.  Then you can search online for jack-o’-lantern themed printables, or just create your own stencils.  You can use these to cut out colored construction paper or fabric into any shapes you would like, such as fangs, mouths ears, or eye patches.  Then, just pin them to the pumpkin using thumbtacks.  Play dough can be used to add an element of depth to the pumpkin’s features, for example, the lips or eyebrows.  Magic markers can be used to draw hair, rosy cheeks or anything else you and your children can imagine. 

Once or twice a week in the month leading up to Halloween, the whole family can make a new theme for the pumpkins, like ghosts, monsters, or cartoon characters.  To really get into the Halloween spirit, everyone can dress up for the theme.  For example, if the theme is super heroes, people can dress up in costumes, or just wear something simple, like a Spiderman T-shirt or a set of kids Superman pajamas.  Best of all, if you do this at night and the children are already in a set of fun kids pajamas everyone will be ready to slip straight into bed and dream about Halloween fun.

 Grow Your Own Pumpkins

As October draws to a close, an authentic jack-o’-lantern is all but required in most families.  Scooping out the seeds and flesh from the pumpkin can be a great sensory activity for smaller children, and then you can use some of the seeds to make snacks.  However, if you save a handful of seeds, you can also try farming your own pumpkins for next Halloween.  Not only is it a fun project that can teach your kids about biology and gardening, but by growing your own pumpkin patch you may be able to save some money come next fall.

Pumpkins cannot stand frost, so, depending on where you live, you should wait until late spring or early summer to plant them.  Make sure that you plant the pumpkins in a very sunny area with plenty of space, as the vines can grow very long.  If the pumpkins are well taken care of, by the time next Halloween rolls around you may have your own pumpkin patch for decorating, jack-o’-lanterns, or just to make some delicious pumpkin pie. Once the pumpkins have a solid rind and a deep color, they should be ready for harvesting.  What you do with them next is up to you.

Pumpkin Boats

A pumpkin with the top sliced off and hollowed out should easily float on water.  If you give each of the children in your family their own small pumpkin, you can have a day of family fun decorating and racing pumpkin boats.  Gather supplies like small sticks to make masts, sheets of construction paper for sails, magic markers, and Lego characters or action figures.  Then, everyone can start decking out their pumpkin boats with their own personal styles.  Skulls and cross bones can be added to turn it into a pumpkin pirate boat, or add a pink sail with sparkles around the edge to make a pumpkin princess boat.  With a parents help, kids can also cut out jagged edges around it and add spirits, monsters or werewolves to turn the boat into a haunted ghost ship. Once everyone has their ships ready, you can race them in a local pool or nearby pond.  Just make sure that you leave a string attached to help retrieve them if they get too far away!

Pumpkins are the symbol for Halloween and maybe even the whole month of October. With these crafts and activities, you and your whole family can get wrapped up in the fall spirit and have a blast crafting, growing, and racing pumpkins!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Until We Meet Again...

If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, 
we belong to the Lord. 
- Romans 14:8

Grandpa John holding his first grandson, little Hunter, as a baby, and at his 2nd Christmas.
The birthday boy with his family.
And then their were two grandsons.
Hunter riding the tractor with Grandpa.
Spending time with the grandkids in Oregon.
And then there were three grand children.
Surprise! Happy Father's Day!
The whole family visiting Garnet Ghost Town.
Grandpa with the grandkids.
Family picture in the beloved jeep.

A Saturday with Grandpa - carousel, helicopters, and trains.

Before we arrived at the cabin for Grandpa's final days, Hunter asked to have "just one more jeep ride with Grandpa" before he goes to Heaven. Wish granted.
Goodbye Grandpa, you were loved by many and will be in our hearts forever!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dear Charlotte, You Are 4 Months Old

Dear Charlotte,
   Or should I call you Charli, or rather Kiki like Hunter does? Let me tell you a little story about you. Your dad had told once I start getting paid more, I could have another baby. So as luck would have it, it was about a year ago today that your dad and I found out we were going to welcome another child into our lives. I was super excited about the next few months following; your dad however was not excited to live with a hormonal mom for 9 more months...
   I studied the Chinese calendar, which predicts the baby's sex based on the month and the age of the mother. I was determined to have a little girl. Don't get me wrong, I love your brothers, but I longed for a little girl. I knew from the git-go my wish had been granted. You gave me the worst morning sickness. Normally it lasts for the first 12 weeks, but you my dear made it last until I was 20 weeks. That was not fun for mom. Luckily I worked as the Executive Housekeeper at a hotel and had access to plenty of toilets...
      As I waddled up and down the halls of the hotel, my belly gradually grew bigger and bigger, and with that your kicks and jabs grew stronger and stronger. It was so hard for me to keep my mouth shut when people asked me, literally everyday, what I was having. (To a lot I actually responded with 'a baby!') I was elated to see on an ultrasound I was having a girl, but since we had kept your brothers a surprise, we kept you a surprise to everyone else. Quite frankly, I didn't know if I could handle having another boy, so I explained to your dad I needed to know before you were born so I could prepare myself for the arrival of a boy.
   At 3am on May 13th, I woke up to turn over and my water broke. Your dad was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement. In fact, I went back to bed for a few more hours, and since he was so restless, I sent him to work. Later that morning, I took your brothers to daycare and then your dad came home to pick me up and take me to the hospital.
   I was given pitocin to induce labor since 6 hours later I still wasn't having contractions. After a long afternoon of boredom, the new doctor on call came in to see me and determined most of my water was still intact. After she ruptured it, you were born about an hour and a half later. You entered the world so perfectly that I was able to watch you be born. (Your brothers both had the umbilical cord wrapped around their necks so I was too focused on getting them out that I missed it.)
   And it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways, you were perfect. Tiny and perfect and beautiful. And my oh my were you a tired little girl during your first few weeks! In fact, I had to wake you up to feed you! Unlike some newborns who are up every couple hours at night, you my dear let me sleep, and for that I thank you. Not only was I a new mom again, but I also had a new job, to stay at home with you and your brothers, and with the energy they have, it's hard to do on little sleep!
   It seemed as though it took so long for you to get here, and now I can't believe you are 4 months old. What a good little girl you are too! As a newborn, you always had the hiccups. It sounded like you swallowed a squeaky toy each time you got them, which was pretty frequently. As soon as your many bouts of hiccups vanished, you became quite the little puker. About two or three times a day, when I was least expecting it, you would throw up what seemed to be your entire feeding. I learned to always pack you two extra sets of clothes when going anywhere! When you turned 2 months old, you began to light up my world by smiling at me. At 3 months old, you found that sucking on your fingers makes you super happy. So happy that for a few days afters you found them, instead of crying because you were hungry, you would suck and suck and suck your fingers. In fact, now at 4 months old, you fall asleep sucking your fingers all the time. Most commonly it's the middle two fingers on your left hand. I'm surprised they're never wrinkled! Though you started a while ago, your babbling is the cutest thing, especially when paired with a huge smile!
   Each morning when I pick you up out of your crib, you are nothing but a baby full of smiles. Even if you're starving, one look at me and you are the happiest baby in town. You are so laid back and quiet too. You are always being praised by family and friends because they never hear you cry. And when you do cry, it's only because you are super tired! Your legs are very strong, as is your neck for your age. I love that you love to just sit with me and take it all in. You are a good little girl.
   I'm excited to continue to watch you grow. Soon enough you'll be eating food, and then standing on your own, and walking. Though it makes me sad to see my baby grow up, I am excited for the memories we have yet to make.

P.S. Thanks for sleeping 12 hours last night. I enjoyed the extra hour of sleep :) xoxo

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cousin Photos to Love

This post has no purpose other than to show off my cute nephews who I was able to see this past week :) 
I love this picture plan and simple.
A) It's a great picture of Papa Craig with all his grandkids.
B) It clearly shows all of my kids' personalities. I'm still getting to know my nephew :)
I'll start with JP. He is flat out a goofball. He is constantly cracking me up. And here he goes again. He has a hard time being serious.
Charlotte is my little sweetie pie. Go with the flow and smile kinda girl.
Hunter....Hunter Hunter Hunter. This is his "I'm a perfect little angel" face. Although he can be the sweetest little boy and melt your heart in an instant, this also happens to be his "I didn't mean to do it on purpose" face.
This one is for you Aunt Kim - Her first time being with ALL her nephews & her niece at the same time. Again, you can see my goofball son Jim.
 Maybe I'm inexperienced at this, but gosh dang it, can't they just look at me and smile at the same time?!
Maybe I could do some cut and pasting? This is one of the few times I've seen Casey smile. 

And since we've gained a cousin on the other side of the family...
 Aunt Em spent a good chunk of her free time snuggling and shushing these little ones.
Isn't baby Steven just a little cutie pie?! He's about 2 weeks old here. I forgot how little Charlotte used to be! 
 I never would have picked Hunter to be the baby lover!

Go Team Dirty Shirleys!

Waaaay back in January, my sisters and I thought it would be fun to get together to run in the Dirty Dash. After little discussion, we invited our mom to join us. We named ourselves the Dirty Shirley's after our childhood favorite drink, Shirley Temples. Now that we're all adults, Dirty Shirley's seemed more appropriate. Plus, what a great way to hydrate before hand?! We didn't leave my dad out either! He was the babysitter. Lucky for him it was for only one of his grandkids, not all 4 of them! He was a trooper! Because he wasn't in the race, he was also the designated photographer. :)
For those of you who haven't heard of the Dirty Dash before, its a 5K "race", except it's not timed and there are obstacles along the course. A handful of which involve mud.  Some were more sloppy than others. Unless you went around them, there is virtually no way to cross the finish line clean.
We signed up for the dash located in Missoula. It was held at the equestrian track so it already had a few obstacles built in. Let's see if I can recall the majority of the obstacles along the course... At the beginning there were stacks of hay bales to climb over. The first two were fairly short, but the third and fourth set were twice the size so we had to help each other climb up and over. Later down the course we were hopping our feet through tires. I think we had to jump over a horse jump next. At mile marker 1 we were faced with our first mud pit. There were 3 sets of air up tubes that you had to climb over. I know I had to be pulled over one of them, which caused Robin and me to land in the mud below.
After we all made it through, we laughed as we headed to our next mud pit where we crawled through tunnels of muddy water. That led us to the mud mine pit. I wish I would have know about it. I happened to slip and while I was on my hand and knees I was hit in the face with a glob of mud. I didn't care until I opened my eyes to discover that I had mud in one...under my contact. Lucky a spectator, or maybe the mine controller, had a bottle of water he was able to rinse it out with, but it stung for the rest of the race.
From there we made our way to the GIANT water slide. I typically don't like water slides, but this one was fun. I was surprised there wasn't a mud pit to land it. But maybe by the afternoon there was? I think after the slide we had to climb up and over a 10 foot net. Pretty scary at the top... I think the next obstacle was a 10 foot wall with a rope that you had to climb over. Also very scary from the top. I was scared for my mom's life on these ones, since there were two of them.
At the 2 mile marker there was *finally* a beer station. We were under the impression there would be beer stations along the course and were a little butt hurt to find only one. Once we made it over both the 4? foot high wall (my mom rolled under them), the rest of the course started to get sloppy again. There were a couple trenches to wade through, and a few big mud pits.

One of the last obstacles featured a HUGE blow up house looking structure where the inside was nothing but sticky mud. To get out you had to try to run, without slipping, and jump over the aired up border. Kile made it out through a window and had to pull me through. My height was a complete disadvantage on that one...
When we all made it though the house, we approached the 3 mile marker. The last tenth of the race we had to wallow through two massive mud pits. They weren't too bad to get through, it was getting up and out over the mound of mud built around it that was challenging!
But all 5 of us made it. It only took an hour and twenty minutes! Unfortunately we only got a couple pictures of us after the race. Ah well. Before heading home, we rinsed off a the shower station. I made the mistake of trying to wash my face off. In doing so, I got mud in my "good" eye. With both eyes burning at that point, I had to take my contacts out and throw them. And then I was lead around like a lost dog. Robin had the same problem with her contacts but not to the extent of mine. 
Next year we're wearing goggles!

Go team Dirty Shirleys!