Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kid Craft: Valentine's Pillow

Have you ever gotten in over your head when planning a school holiday party? Me too. 2 years ago, I had this fabulous idea that I should help those cute little Kindergarteners in Bella's class learn about service. My idea was simple. Sew pillows. Bring pillows to class party ~ unstuffed and undecorated. Let the kiddos use fabric paint to decorate and then stuff the pillows. Take home to sew up the little opening {luckily an awesome mom in B's class did that part for me} then meet up with the class on a Saturday at the local hospital to give to the children who would be spending their Valentine's Day there.
It really ended up being a great experience...the kids were soooo excited to share a little love with sick & injured children, but I may have grossly underestimated the time it would take me {a novice seamstress at best} to sew enough pillows for everyone in Bella's class.
Here we are, two years later...and my girls decided they wanted to make some of those pillows for themselves. I gathered some fabric scraps we had on hand, and we went to work. 1. Cut out a heart shape in 2 layers of your main fabric. Cut a smaller heart in your mid fabric, and yet a smaller heart out of your white fabric.

2. Use a straight stitch, about half an inch from the edge of the mid heart to sew it to one layer of your main fabric. Snip 1/4" wide strips into the edge of that mid fabric, but don't cut into your stitching. Sew the white heart onto the mid fabric with a zig-zag stitch. Place right sides of the main fabric together, and using a straight stitch, sew them together, being sure to leave an opening large enough for your kiddo's hand to reach through.

3. Get out the fabric markers, and let them add their very own design to the white fabric. This, of course, is their favorite part! {remember to heat set their design afterwards if your markers require that.}
4. Let them stuff the pillow with batting.
5. Hand stitch the little opening closed.
6. And there you have it. A simple, quick, and fun Valentine's project for you and the little ones {and maybe, just maybe, if you are a faster seamstress than me, for the 21 other kids in your little ones' class.} Enjoy!
Want more Valentine's Party Ideas? Check out my new school blog!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Get Over to the Cheeky Kitchen

My friend Brooke is amazing. Mom to four chitlins. Chef. Baker. Recipe Creator Extraordinaire. Soon to be Cook Book Author. And a delightful, uplifting, witty little blogger.
And guess what I just found out.
Panera Bread has hired her to dine & write about their yummy eats, and her experiences while feasting there. As I mentioned in a comment on her amazing {blast, I already used that adjective, but it's just so fitting} blog, Cheeky Kitchen, I really try to keep envy out of my life. But after reading her sweet, tantilizing Panera post, I could feel it creeping in. And before I knew it - wham. There it was. Full blown envy.
I do. I will admit it. I envy her {for more reasons than getting paid to dine at Panera}, but am also so extremely happy for her. She is a wonderful, good hearted person who deserves all the accolades, blue ribbons, and book deals that are coming her way. Go check out her site, try some of her scrumptious recipes, and laugh with her along the way. Congrats Brooke!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On Vices & Cookies

We all have our vices. We all have our comforts that make us feel great in the moment, but regret later. Being Mormon, a lot of those vices are ruled out for me from the get go...but I have others. While some members drown their troubles in Dr. Pepper, or turn to energy drinks for the high they crave, I, like I assume others are, am addicted to food. Treats in particular. Have you ever been to a church function that was deemed successful that didn't involve refreshments? Me neither.

As I have been kick starting yet another phase of fitness & healthy eating in an effort to ditch the rest of my baby weight {yes, my baby is almost a 1 1/2}, I have realized that there is one thing that I just cannot say no to. I have fended off brownies, cheesecake, homemade white rolls {mmm. that one was tough}, but cookies, ah, delicious cookies, those are my weakness.

The homemade variety especially.

When I'm not watching what I'm eating - I can easily down a dozen in a sitting. Awful, I know. I love, love, love them. Any flavor really. Peanut Butter are probably my favorite, followed in a close second by White Chocolate Macedamia Nut...but really...I've never met a homemade cookie that I didn't love. {unless it spent a little too much time in the oven}

I'm sure you are sitting there thinking, well, my heavens dear, just stop making cookies. The trouble is, I have kids. And my kids love cookies. And they think I'm the greatest mom ever when they come home from school to a fresh batch of Chocolate Chip ones piled on a plate next to a cool glass of milk. And, Calvin begs me to bake with him every, and I mean every day. How can I say no to that? And when I have cookies in my home, I find myself nearly incapable of declining them.

Six years and two babies ago, I was crazy about getting my pre-baby body back. I balanced my proteins & carbs. I worked out like a wild woman, and I never ate treats or baked goods. I made a magnet for my refrigerator that said, in bold letters "Nothing tastes better than being skinny." I got down to about 8% body fat, and, I looked like this:

{as this is a family friendly blog, I'll save you the full body views.}

I loved the body I worked so hard for. But, a couple pregnancies wiped out the results of my efforts pretty quickly, and it's been increasingly more difficult to drop the weight.

As they say, sacrifice is giving up one thing for something even better. I suppose then, my biggest struggle is not my addiction to cookies, but in deciding if being a little less jiggly is in fact better than fresh baked, straight from the oven, chocolately goodness.

Any thoughts on the matter? I haven't quite made up my mind yet. But, I may be leaning towards the cookies...I'm open to any no-fat, low carb, high protein, kid friendly, and delicious cookie recipes you may have!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

'Twas the Season

This may be the longest post in the history of all blogging. It contains our entire Christmas season, from the prepping of the Christmas card & chopping down of the tree to the opening of the last gift on Christmas day, and ALL of the wonderful things in between. So, get comfy and peruse, or just skim. Either way, know that we love having you visit our family blog ~ and wish you the best this new year!
{The following is our family Christmas message that's in the way-too-little-to-read print on the back of our Christmas card.}
In the hustle and bustle of everyday, I don't always stop and recognize the joy that I have in my life. Sometimes, through the haze of diaper changes, runny noses & never ending stacks of laundry, I don’t stop to appreciate the magical time of life this is for our family. This is a time of discovery, energy, excitement over everything, and plain old fun. We have adventures together daily, large & small. During the year, we have cheered the girls on at gymnastics, track, field day, and in their musical theater performances. We’ve encouraged them in their swing dance lessons, listened proudly as Bella practiced “Ode to Joy” on the piano for the 63rd time, laughed as we attempted the Spanish words that Azure taught us daily, and hugged the living daylights out of those cute girls when they were returned safe & sound after being lost in the great bus caper of August 2010. We rooted for Calvin during basketball and t-ball games, kissed him goodbye on his first day of Pre-School, and wondered constantly where he came up with so many questions about everything from how Jesus turns on the rain to how machine guns shoot bullets so fast. We have followed Emmett up & down stairs as he learned to crawl, got excited over each new word that spilled from his adorable little mouth, and cuddled him before his mini-surgery that has {fingers crossed} cured his frequent ear infections.
We spent the majority of our summer swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, & exploring the vast beauties of Colorado as a family. {This was tricky at times with Emmett’s love of eating rocks & dirt, but it was worth it!} We made the road trip to visit family in Provo once for a wedding, once for Pioneer Day, and will be there once more before the year is through. The kids still talk about the week Nana & Bapa came out to play while Dan & I kicked our heels up in Nashville for our tenth anniversary. Emmett & I took a trip to Boston for my sister’s graduation, and got home just in time to finish the preparations for my sis-in-law’s wedding reception at our home.
I played a working mom for two weeks as I fulfilled my civic duty as a juror in June, and was thrilled when I could come home and “just” be a mom again. What a blessing - I missed my little ones!
Dan kept busy with work, and the travel it required - but during these times of economic uncertainty - we are so grateful he is busy. On his off time, he squeezed in a few hunting trips, a little dirt biking, lots of yard work, and even more playtime with the kids. One of my greatest joys is to hear my children giggle and squeal as they’re wrestling, chasing or jumping on the trampoline with Dad. Oh, I love it!
There are so many reasons to be joyous - even in the day to day little things in our lives. We wish you great joy in your lives as well, especially during the holiday season! Lots of love to you & yours ~ love, the McOmbers

In an effort to simplify this Christmas, I only put out a few of our very, absolute favorite Christmas decorations. It was just enough to feel festive, not overwhelming, and a breeze to pack away. Somtimes I absolutely adore simplicity.

I know not everyone appreciates an ungroomed, straight from the forest, sometimes having two trunks type of tree ~ but I love it. My kids love it, and Dan tolerates it because he knows how much I love it. Compromise ~ it's what makes the world go 'round. Thanks sweetie!

This was kind of a rotten time of year to have Daddy gone for so long ~ but we survived, and were soooo happy to see him when he got home! Emmett is a Daddy's boy for sure, and just wasn't himself without Dan around.
I invited lots of friends to join us in bringing a little cheer to the residents of a local retirement home. About twenty kids were able to be there to sing songs, pass out candy canes, give hugs, and bring smiles to these sweet, sweet elderly residents. They sure loved the babies! Emmett & Emma were a hot commodity there ~ all of the ladies wanted a turn holding them. It really was so great to see the kids excited about making other people happy. Such a great morning!
We asked our friends and family to join us on this magical train ride to the North Pole to meet Santa, and it was awesome. The kids loved every second of it. They were caught up in the excitement before we even got to the train station, and squealed and giggled when they climbed aboard. They soaked up all the magic, and came away just glowing.{fot those of you who can't read the teensy-tiny print in the red box above ~ this is what it says}

When it comes to road trips with kids, I am not a “joy in the journey type of girl. I am a “get there as quick as we can, let the kids do their business on the side of the road, and pack a cooler full of food so we never have to stop to eat” type of girl.
But this trip to Utah was different. Because the kids were losing it being cooped up in the van, we consented to a dine in stop at Chick-fil-a so they could let out some energy in the play area. As we were eating, a group of older men with banjos, fiddles, a bass and a Santa hat started setting up shop around us. We were quickly in the midst of an old fashioned bluegrass concert right there in the lobby of Chick-fil-a.
I happen to love bluegrass music. We sang along, we danced, we requested songs, and we hung out in the Grand Junction CFA for an hour and a half. It was a highlight of our trip. Such a fun surprise! We definitely found joy in our journey that day!
This is Aunt Charity's busiest time of year, so we made a quick surprise visit to spend some time with her at work. She loves all her little kiddies ~ and they sure love her!Bapa Hunt makes the BEST snowmen, and he loves being outside playing with his grandkiddies. {Azure wants you all to notice the leaf feet she added}. When this one toppled over, they were out the next day building a bigger and better one. The second snowman was even taller than Bapa {at 6'8" he's hard to beat!} Nana, Bapa, Lia and Eden played with the kids and I {while Dan was working} at our favorite pizza place in Provo. It looks just like the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland ~ but this pirate cave comes complete with arcade games. My kids talk about it all the time ~ it's a 'must do' attraction on our visits to Nana & Bapa's!There are so many things to do in Utah that we just don't have here in Colorado. Kangaroo Zoo is one of our favorite places to hit when we are there. It's an enormous building with bounce houses, obstacle courses and slides where the adults can join in the fun too. We played, had races {I totally lost to Bella}, Dan tossed the kids around like rag dolls ~ and boy those kiddies slept good that night!
Spending time together was the best gift of all ~ but the slingshot flying monkey that Uncle Sam gave Calvin came in a close second. Everyone was so thoughtful and generous. But really, truly, just being there with family was more than enough. Even with the craziness of having eight adults, five children, four dogs and two cats staying in one house ~ we had a fabulous time!

We made it back from Utah in time to spend Christmas Eve with Grammy, Grandpa and Todd at their house. Emmett wasn't interested in being baby Jesus. Luckily Azure brought a backup just in case. Calvin played Joseph just long enough to get a ride on the donkey, but Bella and Azure were serious about their roles this year. There was no breaking character for them until Grandpa finished the last verse. So cute to see them doing the exact same thing my brothers, sisters and I would do every Christmas Eve. I can still picture Lia in a beard from her own hair as the Innkeeper. Ah, the memories!

There's just something wonderful about spending Christmas morning in your own home. The girls put out cookies for Santa, carrots for the reindeer {a strawberry for Donner, since he doesn't like carrots}, and tucked their cards for Santa next to his plate. They were darling, of course, and Bella's cracked me up! {I snuck a peak before Santa saw it}. She asked him three questions: 1. Is it true that you get a new reindeer every day of December? {a rumor floating around her school} 2. Why do they call it "xmas"? and 3. What does Donner like to eat? I hope he likes strawberries! Santa wrote them back with the answers to the questions, praised them for specific things that they have all done well this year, and encouraged them to continue being such good little girls and boys in the upcoming year. Oh that Santa... how does she {oops}, he do it all?

After reading Santa's letter - it was on to stockings, and opening gifts. Azure was upset at first because her gift from Santa was in such a smaller package than the other kids'. That was, until she opened her present. Remember her wish list? Well, it's new to her, and she thinks it's an ipod ~ so she is beside herself! Woohoo! I was sweatin' that one a little! All the kids LOVED everything! So glad they are still at the age where everything is exciting. Oh, it makes me giddy!

We got together with all the Colorado family to exchange gifts and eat a yummy Christmas dinner. My kids were so excited to give their cousins the gifts they picked out for the exchange, and I was excited to give away all the towels I made with the nephews' names on them {of which I amazingly took zero pictures. blast!}. We were given lots of great things in return! Megan made the girls the adorable hats their wearing in the pic. Emily made everyone a darling necklace, we loved all of our gifts, from cousins, Grammy & Grandpa, aunts & uncles ~ and we all had a great night.

And there you have it. A beautiful, busy, exciting, family-filled, Christ-Centered Christmas season.

A success.

A moment to indulge in a deep breath, and now off to plan for next year!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Little Mystery

How is it that a sweet little boy can have tubes put in his ears
at 10 months old
and still be getting nasty double ear infections six months later?

Little E has been a sad, grouchy, screaming, burning hot little boy recently.
It seems as if we're back to the 'good' old days.
We miss our sweet, happy, laughing, funny boy!

However, this ear mystery has helped solve a different unknown.
The realization that he is still having ear trouble may explain why he is still having walking trouble.
The poor little guy's balance is totally off.
Here's to your 2011 Emmett!
Hopefully it's a year of healthy ears & long strides!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Week of Thanks

We started a new version of our 'one thankful thing a day' tradition by hanging a ring each November day before Thanksgiving with something that we are thankful for written on it. These are the things my little ones wrote:
Bella: friends, family, holidays, school, my house, my trampoline, God, my church, piano lessons, clocks, Spanish club, snow {so I can build snowmen}, my hair {or else I would be bald}, shoes, clothes, my talents, mom & dad's car, toys, pumpkins, flowers, movies, lights, Santa, animals
Azure: books, family, food, school, God, art, Halloween, my home, my earth, trees, Thanksgiving, rocks, Mom, Calvin, Bella, firefighters, swing dance class, shakes, light, backpack, brothers, sunlight, family, bike, shoes, bed
Calvin: family, Jesus, our treehouse, mom, trampoline, daddy, Emmett, T.V., preschool, friends, sisters, preschool turkey, Dad's big motorcycle, nerf guns, books, the moon, preschool, Miss Colleen and her toys, pillow pet, my cousins, Eden, nursery, Nana & Bapa, Megan & Carter, my airplane
And I am thankful for homemade cinnamon rolls. Mmm.
This year, I only made four pies: 2 pumpkin, 1 peach {my fave}, and 1 berry. My kids love, love love to help in the kitchen, Calvin especially. He was there long after the girls took off to play, and got to help with the sweet potato casserole as well. So yummy! We went bowling Thanksgiving morning {as per usual}. Somehow, we didn't get any pictures of all the family that was with us: Todd, Meg & Carter, Grammy & Grandpa, Kasey & Emily and their kids - Daemon, Vince, Trey and Chauncey. Nobody bowled a turkey this year, but we still had a great time!
We were in Parker {almost an hour away} fed, showered, ready to go and sitting in our pew by 8:45am. I was so proud of us! Chauncey's blessing was beautiful, and it was so nice to spend time up with Emily & Kasey. We thought to take a picture only after Kasey's family left - but they are a JOY to spend time with. It was a great way to wrap up the holiday!