Last Sunday brought a lazy, rainy day and this Sunday proves to be the same. However, I am not complaining. Breakfast out, painting scenery for our much anticipated puppet show inspired by our nightly reading of “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”, and rainy day play because around here when it rains, we play.
Rainy days have to be the best fool-proof, giggle eliciting, free entertainment around that provide what I remember as real childhood memories.
(I think they are brothers.)
So in comes another quickie-made spring fun matching game.
Count the bunnies, find the number.
Again, here for you in case your snoozy Sunday needs some activity too.
Get to hopping. I mean counting.
For me it is practically the same thing.
A rainy Sunday after a whirlwind road-trip yesterday means we have a case of the
“I need something to do…I want to go outside…I’m not happy,” toddlers.
Enter a quickly made Easter matching game to the rescue and me sharing it with you in case you have two of these whine buckets on your hand too.
Click the link above to download the PDF and then just print, a quick cut out
and let the matching begin.
As Caden is growing into a grown-up little boy more and more this year, he chose a superhero birthday. This big, now four year old boy loves all things superhero.
However, being that he is still such a little man whether he knows it or not means he hasn’t attached himself to one superhero in particular just the concept – cape, mask, rescuing, flying, saving, special powers. You know, the important stuff.
With this in mind it was on to “theme design” and exactly how we were going to make this just right for Caden, his age, his superhero love and his little friends.
Since, he hasn’t started watching just Spiderman or just Ninja Turtles (though is rapidly increasing his exposure and fascination) I thought going with more of a bright, comic-esque superhero theme. Caden approved as we picked out décor and it turned out completely perfect for him and his current superhero stage.
I enjoy putting a celebration together for the boys, with the boys, because I Iove their reactions, excitement and appreciation. They carry things for me, they pick colors, help me put things out and they point out and notice it all.
In doing a cozy play-date timed party this year I kept the food simple; pigs in a blanket, mini PB & Js, individual fresh fruit cups with granola and marshmallow to top since marshmallows are a massive hit with this crew, some raisin boxes and your basic chips and pretzels. Easy, peasey and child satisfactory. Caden was beyond excited about his cake that we ordered locally to support our “mom and pop” shops from Brendal’s Bakery. I sketched it out, showed Caden who was giddy and to the bakery we went to order it when his birthday month had arrived. Cute, delicious and beyond pleasing to my now four year old.
All of his little friends are getting yet another fun age and stage. They truly have “friendships” and run around playing on their own. This was the first year I was able to set for them a real kids party table that we could serve them at but they could then sit by each other playing, eating and chatting. Wrangling everyone from toys, capes, coloring tables and so forth is always an adventure but in the end I think everyone got to come and go from the table as they (and their moms) pleased and fill their tummies.
It was pretty precious seeing them at their little place settings with mason jar tumblers I adorned with their initials in a superman logo. After untying them as decorations they all were donning their capes I had sewn up in various patterns and bright shades at some point and enjoying the festivities. Supermen and one little superlady everywhere you looked.
Part of what is nice about keeping it small and cozy is that I feel like I can do more for the kids as a whole in their treats and surprises for being part of Caden’s life and his celebration. We are very thankful for the little friends he has and their moms, both that were able to attend and had to miss for helping to shape Caden, for being another support for him and for teaching him his first lessons in friendships.
They ate and played, ate and played and we moms actually got to chat some. (especially once Daddy arrived and began the kids vs. Daddy wrestling match) Though, truth be told, we did end up having to stand in the entryway where the table was set supervising most of the time (sorry moms) but then the kids were able to have a pretty free reign without us having to interfere much! Thankfully, we have the playroom upstairs, Caden’s new room which caused some cuts and bruises thanks to some bed-bouncing (boys) and a wide open living room to give them all plenty of choice to choose their own play space. Yes, we have surrendered our home to our kids completely.
So many little feet stomping around, little hands sneaking extra snacks off the table and me flooded with memories of my first born and how much he has grown. Quit weeping and bring on the cake! Fine.
First he was just excited about the cake…then he was excited that he got his own spot on the table since that was surely the easiest way to connect him to the cake without risking me dropping it moving it again. My four year old superhero basking in birthday boy glory dreaming his deepest of kiddie wishes into those four flames.
It is quite safe to say that we checked off everything on his birthday party requirements list; invites, decorations, friends, cake, balloons & oh yes, presents.
Just enough new and exciting fun gifts to make him feel special and entertain him but not overload him or our toy bins, a win!
It was truly a downright fun morning for our little man and for us to watch. I love having the center court front row seat to seeing him become his own person and getting to feel his joy. Another huge thank you to his friends and their mamas for being there on his celebratory day and for all of the playdates, e-mails, coffee talks and support. It takes a village and he is lucky to have one from the start.
Special thanks to Ashley, (Lane’s Mom) of Southern Mae Photography for not only taking this picture but being my second set of eyes to team up and help me permanently document Caden’s birthday with her camera as well throughout the morning. Double the pictures, double the fun and proof I was actually there.
In one whole year I went from needing the kids to help compile one set of classroom Valentines, to three. Wowzers. My little lovebugs both needed sets for their classes this year but Caden, who goes Tuesday – Thursday had to have a set for this Tuesday/Thursday class and also one for his Wednesday class because while his teacher is the same, some of the kids are different so my lucky lovebug gets to have two parties this week.
It is okay though because he was REALLY excited.
We started working on our Valentines early this year so that if life interfered, and it did, it wouldn’t be a last minute task that wasn’t enjoyed. So, we did our shopping, the boys helped picked the colors for their tags, took a few pictures and then they get to sit with me and help bag things so that by February 1st they were done and ready to go. I love having their help and I think it is important even if it takes a little longer to have them participate so that they don’t think these things just “poof, appear” for them.
It is definitely a tradition in the making to get all of our supplies and sit by the fire while taking turns getting them ready to go.
I am also fortunate that Caden is a superb listener and directions-follower and Everett wants to be just like him so the whole process of where to put things goes pretty smoothly.
Overall my goal this year was to have a fun treat for his friends that didn’t add to their “Halloween-esque” bag of treats that ends up coming home. Especially since Everett can’t have any of the candy that comes home I like doing something a little different for them and find joy in the challenge of hunting to make my brainstorm cost affordable to a typical boxed candy Valentine.
So, if you are already planning ahead for 365 days from today, hopefully this helps you because we sure had a great time!
Valentine Numero Uno – Caden’s Wednesday Class
While the boys liked having shaped crayons, getting all of those wrappers off even with their “just soak it in water” trick was not so fun. Throw in some heart and smiley face stickers, print off shape tracing sheets on cardstock (heart, star and smiley face) and wham-bam and LOVEly craft valentine is complete.
Valentine Numero Dos - Everett’s Thursday Party
For our active young man, an active Valentine stocked with a palm sized bouncy ball, two sticky hands and of course just a couple Hershey Kisses for those “xoxo” friends that are such a good “catch”.
Valentine Numero Tres – Caden’s Thursday Party
Our imaginative little “character” of an almost four year old loves his sunglasses and pretending in general. So, some foam glasses donned with mustaches and marshmallow eyes let his friends join in on the fun.
I love that the boys get so much joy in giving already which is not at all evident on Everett’s fabulous facial expression. They grin and giggle when they get to take something special to their teachers and Valentine’s Day was no exception. On Wednesday we handed them treat boxes loaded with all of our kitchen’s holiday baked goods; red velvet heart whoopie pies, maraschino chocolate topped butter cookies and traditional sugar cookies topped with chocolate drizzle and sprinkles. It was a hit with the boys and with the teachers’ families. Now, because I do the baking regardless, I always hand it out to get it out of the kitchen. But, as a former teacher I also know that receiving more and more “goodies” gets lost in the shuffle so something practical is always appreciated and used! So there was Thursday’s delivery to the boys’ amazing teachers this year because we can’t “measure” how much we love them.
This week was most definitely full of love for our littles. Class parties, special lunches, treats and surprises today from Nonna made it so there is no doubt that all things hearts, pink, red and love are for “Balentimes” as Caden says.
Me? I was spoiled too and am looking forward to a movie in bed with a bottle of wine courtesy of Nonna. A Valentines win for the week? I think so.
With all of this back and forth weather spring one week, dead of winter the next we are doing our best to embrace it one weather-full day at a time.
Take for example a romp in the snow last week and all
the kiddo filled wonder it brings.
Happy Snow Day to You Too Caden. Happy Childhood-Love Snow Day.
In the spirit of “Awards Season”,
And the Oscar goes to…
Maybe I should backtrack.
Among all of the various pre-Christmas activities, we received notice from Caden’s school that the week prior to their break they would be having a Christmas program one evening after school. Their Thanksgiving program was during the day and just included a few songs for their age group of classes so we weren’t really sure what to expect, and truthfully weren’t expecting much.
As we walked into the sanctuary it was clear that a nativity would be part of the production which made more sense as when we dropped Caden off into his classroom to “prepare” prior to show-time his wonderful teacher said, “I’m not sure what animal he is, but you’ll want to be front and center.” Huh?!
We had even asked Caden about what songs he would be singing and such since he practiced his Thanksgiving program songs 24/7 before that one. We didn’t get much information out of him, so again, we saw the nativity, heard most of the nativity kids are older and/or teacher’s kiddos (makes sense, no problem there) and took our seats.
In comes the procession of kids and we see most of his classmates filling up the right side of the bleachers (where we were sitting since the front/center rows were primarily reserved for staff). Ummmm….where is our kid? We did drop him off in his class right? Oh wait. There he is. Behind the Kings and Wise Men. What is he so proudly holding over his face?
Our kid the ass.
I mean donkey.
(and the photo-bombing flashing angel)
I told Colter that it must be pay-back for his teenage “wit”. The program was complete with the story of the nativity scene as told by little children’s voices with various songs in between. Caden, who was chosen for his “role” I’m certain because of his love for singing and following teacher’s instructions was an angel…well, a donkey. He kept his mask up, would peek and grin at us, put it back up, put it down to stare at his friend next to him who was belting the songs out (and by belting I mean yelling) in true toddler program fun and so on and so forth. The kids gave a jolly rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, complete with a arm swing movement we saw for the rest of the month. All in good fun and festivity.
You know Caden, he takes his jobs very seriously.
So we went, we saw, we ski-daddled.
We talked all about his songs, friends and donkey mask all the way home showering him with praise and pride and family sing-alongs.
Describing gift opening is alaways a hilarious endeavor at the Kazmann Christmas extravaganza. With more children than adults in the past it has been a bit of a free for-all of paper flying, gift switching, scrambling to keep up and you can completely forget about seeing the tag and knowing who it was from.
Gift opening is a cardio routine.
This year it was slightly less all over the place but still one big “Ready, Set Go” and not knowing where to look. You’re pretty lucky if you happen to catch your own children opening their much awaited surprises but you can completely forget about seeing your nieces/nephews open what you gave them because a wall of paper, boxes, and bows blinds you from your little spot . The squeals and giggles are constant so you know there is happiness and excitement as out toy bins are re-stocked by our all too generous family. Caden and Everett were quite shocked to receive there very own Buzz Lightyears from Nonna & Pa Pa this year…and books…and movies…and blocks…and clothes. Everyone spoiled them so.
The kids are all growing up enough now that it is interesting to see what they all are into, hoping to receive and then SO excited when they do. Take my Kindergartener niece Cate and her brand new “Girl of the Year” (whatever that means…I have boys) American Girl Doll. Miss Sage played with us for the next three days, and I should add sported various hairstyles as well.
I gifted my younger nieces and nephews home-made capes and masks this year, and it was quite the sight seeing Braiden cape clad for a few moments between gifts perched upon Nonna’s toy horse. Success!
I think it truly adds to the excitement of it all that the gifts aren’t opened right away. All of the kids see them under the tree, know that at some point we will shred them to pieces but until then it is playing and eating and chasing and napping. So,when it is time, it is on. Caden even managed to find a quiet moment to open one last gift that had been hiding away. Watching him sit himself down to rip apart “just one more” with really just me and him watching was a nice little breather (for me really) as I felt like I really got to watch and focus on his age and the experience of gift opening with him this year.
Last year there was much more bickering between the boys over newly opened things, and they seemed very overwhelmed by the process of it all. This year, they had it down and both have fully entered the “Lets open another one,” phase that is surely going to have me wrapping even chapstick in a few years. (Truthfully, I liked that Santa gave one ”big” Santa gift unwrapped with stockings and we did just three wrapped presents ourselves for them.)
Siting back among the wrapping paper you can’t help but think about all of the work, prep and time spend getting everything ready for us all to destroy. Carolyn (Nonna) did a stellar job yet again not only getting what her grandkids’ hearts’ desired but really giving them a whole experience of Christmas at Nonna & Pa Pa’s. It warms my heart watching the boys thank them for dinner, presents and playing and learning just how hard they work to make this all happen for them. I love knowing that they get a full Santa experience at our home and can look forward to an additional yet different Christmas magic just 15 minutes away. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
Everyone was most certainly spoiled with sweets and surprises and still had the energy to continue playing and partying. Definitely very merry.
Even if Santa himself was caught sneaking presents under my tree this year, it was going to be hard to beat last year’s white, blanketed in snow Christmas magic. Then again, my in-laws know how to bring their A-Game to any and all family gatherings and spare no sleep in preparing for all of us to arrive.
The real treat this year was that my mother in law’s daughter Laura was in town from
California with her husband and my two nieces this year for all of the fun! We usually only get to see Laura and the girls once a year when they make their yearly summer visit and sometimes another short weekend trip so this was special for all of us, especially my mother in law to have her join us this year.
Laura stayed busy almost her entire visit cooking up a storm with Carolyn which surely was a dream come true for her, and freed up my time to do nothing but eat, drink, play and take pictures. Thank you Laura!
After our busy and exciting Christmas morning, we let the boys nap here, loaded up our own
sleigh car with gifts, sweet treats and newly opened toys and headed over to romp around with our nieces and nephews.
The arrival itself was picture perfect as the boys trotted up the sidewalk path, new toys in hand to greet a favorite sight of theirs, their Pa Pa.
As you may remember from previous years, my in-laws home is a magical place and at Christmas time the majestic feel is stepped up umpteen notches with the glow of lights, the trays of goods and all of the red and gold details scattered about. For all of the holiday season we occupy ourselves there quite a bit and I never tire of looking around and taking in all of the special touches Carolyn adds or the personal keepsakes, like a stocking for each grandchild above the fire that the kids will always remember growing up. Perfection.
We didn’t get snow this year, but we did get a warmer Christmas which allowed for a different kind of outside play. In a way, it was nice for all of the kids to be able to go in and out more frequently so that they could spread out a little and really play together but not underfoot!
There was an exceptional amount of chase.
But really. They ran around and ran around and ran around. In fact, they ran around so much that come dinner time much later in the evening, they all actually sat and ate. Miraculous right?
After the abundance of outdoor play, Caden and Everett’s Austin cousins arrived just in time for it to be too dark to be outside anymore making it perfect for new entertainment to show up! Poor JP is the oldest, at 6, so he gets swarmed by Caden and Everett who hang on his every word…and toy.
Kaylie walked in armed with a brand new Jessie (from Toy Story) doll which meant that Caden and Everett were in love since Jessie goes with their new Woody toys. Double the Jackpot when Braiden had a Woody in his hands as
Everyone settled in and then sat down to enjoy one of the many scrumptious experiences of a meal that Carolyn (and Laura) cooked up for us over he holiday festivities. I adored seeing all of the cousins sitting together at an official kids table attached to our large dining table, a first this year. Were they all seated angels the whole time? Come on…lets be realistic. However, they ate and rested their toys by their chairs and contributed to the hustle and bustle that is a meal with 7 kids and 8 adults. Caden, even took the reigns and gave the official prayer this year as we were needing a host and I asked him if he wanted to share his since he had been practicing.
The night was full.
Our bellies were full.
Our hearts were full.
The house was most certainly full.
And the conversation was filling.
Colter and I took in having little ones that while they were still very little, were old enough to have their schedules and routines stretched enough to play longer and stay later and really get their fill of everyone and everything.
If you can even believe it among all of the food and fun, we even made time for a few gifts! Oh yes, gifts. What is amazing about Kazmann Christmases is that even with that many kids, the gifts, as they should, take a backseat to the visiting and child banter going on. Even with all of the minds freshly filled with Santa’s generosity and the glittering boxes filling the ground beneath the tree they don’t get asked about really or touched until it is time. Sure they go over and peek and soak up the view but they all are too excited to see each other to go tearing right into them. Truthfully, I don’t think we have ever gotten to all of the gifts on Christmas Day over there.
So the bulk of the gifts and the remainder of play were left for another day as will the rest of the tale be. The day was long but loved, fast but full, exciting and most certainly exhausting in the best possible of ways. We ventured home, got the kids in bed around 11 – wowzers, and slept away the Christmas magic knowing we would be right back to it the next morning to continue stuffing our tummies, replenishing our toy bins and filling our hearts.
With our boys wake-times varying from ridiculously early as in it is still night outside to really early as in the sun will rise in the next 40 minutes early we weren’t 100% sure how are Christmas morning would begin. The days being full of fun, excitement and family already were sure to wear them out some equaling a slightly later start right?
Lately, Caden wakes up, plays in his room for a few minutes, sits in the hall upstairs for a few minutes and then makes his way downstairs until he gets the guts toknock on our door. At this point he jumps in and we have a movie-like early morning cartoons snuggle fest while we all wake up for a bit. Everett follows suit shortly thereafter. This year on Christmas morning we weren’t sure if we would get two boys who were exhausted and slept “late”, boys who have the perfect glimpse of the tree through the stair banisters from their doors who scream “Santa came!” or boys who forgot it was Christmas and just carried on not noticing there wishes came true.
We got a mixture.
Why don’t we back track a little. On Christmas Eve, just before bed, the boys opened up dream tool sets from Pop and Nana Jill. Way to go Mom and Dad…the coolest presents at bedtime. Yes, we let them stay up, and yes, Caden kept walking around with his hands on his head saying “I just can’t believe I have ALL these tools.” They nicely tucked their tools into ”bed” downstairs after their bath, told them goodnight (yes, the tools) and headed upstairs with promises to see them the following day and hopes that Santa was coming too.
Christmas morning, I woke with a bit of a start. It was only 6:00 a.m. but being that it isn’t unheard of for ours to wake around then or shortly thereafter I decided to get up and turn the tree lights on. You see, Caden has the most perfect peeking spot overlooking the tree and he ALWAYS looks through the rails there first. I thought he would just love seeing that Santa came with the tree already lit instead of coming down and turning them on himself like usual. I tip toed out, opened the door and was a little surprised Caden wasn’t already curled up outside of our door like he does from time to time. Well, surprised until I looked to my right to see him curled up by all of his new tools that were still ”tucked in” with a big grin on his face. “Hi Mommy, look at all my tools, don’t worry, I was just checking on them, I wasn’t playing.”
With a big hug and a kiss I asked him if I could take him back upstairs to lay in his bed with him for a few minutes until Everett woke too thinking maybe he hadn’t noticed his Santa surprises. (Duh.) “Okay Mommy, and then I can play with my tools, And Mommy?” “Yes Caden. (as we are walking up the stairs)” ”Santa came and brought me my scooter!”
So you did notice.
“We can’t play with it yet Mommy. Everett is sleeping.”
Santa’s logistics in squeezing down the chimney, cookie eating, reindeer feeding and where, just where would we ride those scooters! Everett had no trouble going straight to his scooter once he saw it. Right to business.
It appears the years of “Hey Look! Mommy, Daddy, SANTA CAME!” have begun and our oh so precious boys were thrilled with their choices (a scooter and a cape) and their deliveries (a scooter and a cape). No more, no less. The big man delivered what they asked for and filled their stockings with a few fun finds.
We gifted the boys just three surprises ourselves, a board game each, a book each and their real love, their own Woody. Caden, I’ll have you know opened just about everything completely decked out in his tool, worker, “fixing-man” gear. You know, in case there was any fixing to do.
We stayed cozy in our PJs, left the messes for later and in true kids at Christmas style headed outside to test out their new toys.
In years that have passed, as you may or may not recall, Christmas Eve was always reserved for “my” side of the family.
I don’t much like saying “my family” because I very much consider my husbands family to be “my family” as they have been in my life now for more than half of my life but you know what I mean.
Growing up, Christmas Eve was the night we cleared room under the tree for Santa celebrating with extended family and opening presents from those loved ones. As young adults we still did so, my mom still gifting us Christmas PJs when we snuck off for our pre-bedtime shower. In recent years it has slowly changed. We were so fortunate to have Dana fully take over our Christmas Eve tradition after mom passed. With my father residing in Florida, sometimes making it in and sometimes not and Dana, myself and my brother still here she planned and prepped for a dinner to remember with us and her closest friends, who were her family. My brother and I used this as our time to exchange gifts as we would split to our in-laws’ homes the following day and to just take part in some of our traditions (like making popcorn balls) with Dana, and the things my Mom would have done. My father even upheld her tradition of PJ gifting the first few years before we nixed it so that once there were grandchildren it would go to them.
Caden’s first Christmas Eve was Dana’s last. It was and I think always will remain a very surreal memory really knowing that the following year would be different but not yet experiencing. She herself, gifted our children books that were recorded with the sound of her voice and things that were very much so that we would remember.
And so we do. Christmas Eve is wonderful, but it is impossible to not think of her
and Don and our families together and the years prior with my Mom and the years as kids with all of us. So, we started our own version. Just my brother’s family and my family and my Dad and Jill. We decided we would trade off houses each year, make it festive but casual, kid-centered and our time. After one year at my house and one year at Drew & Jess’ house things again, changed.
It wasn’t until the week of Christmas approached and neighbors began asking of our plans that I realized that Christmas Eve would not be spent with “my side” of the family this year. My Dad and Jill were going to spend Christmas in Florida since Drew & Jess had just moved there and they typically came here to see all of us which no longer was the case. I hadn’t thought much of it and Colter and I planned to have a quiet evening at home with the boys which was just fine.
My in laws knew better. As the day approached, Carolyn suggested them coming over for a casual takeout dinner to just enjoy each other’s quiet company before the rest of the family’s arrival on Christmas Day. It was perfect! Caden and Everett, who aren’t used to having to share their Pa Pa and Nonna very much loved having them IN THEIR home. They always think it is such a treat when they come here because on most occasions we join at their house. We chatted, ate over a bare table Bath & Body Works candlelit takeout casserole dinner and exchanged a few gifts all while the boys ran about singing Jingle Bells and talking of Santa.
I think they knew just what I didn’t even know I needed on a Christmas Eve that used to be very family filled being extended family empty this year. The night was a great kickoff to spending the following days with family, the kids noisily running about with all of their cousins, food overload and Christmas chaos.
We ended the evening with just the four of us opening the boys’ gifts from their Uncle Drew & Auntie Jess and Pop and Nana Jill. (blocks, games, Toy Story and tools – oh my!) Everett kept saying “Auntie and Uncle not here, they mail me this.” I personally enjoyed Caden’s excitement over his new PJs. I have a feeling that while it will always be an expected and appreciated box for tradition’s sake, this reaction won’t always be the case.
With talk of Santa coming Caden and Everett each picked out a cookie to leave for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer. Caden was pretty determined to leave his carrot on the driveway where the reindeer could munch while they waited for Santa to return but he decided that maybe we were right and Santa would take it out to them. Then there was a whole other discussion about the glass of milk that Caden realized upon getting into his bed that he hadn’t put out. Again, he had to put his faith in us that we would do it for him and be sure Santa had some milk for his cookies.
We read “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” said our prayers and with wishful hearts went to sleep and…
It must have been because Nonna and Pa Pa came over to be sure we were feeling loved and on our best behavior as our Christmas Eve celebrating continued to evolve. Thank you!