Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Adventure 2012

I. Love. Christmas. And I'm even more excited for everything Christmas because I have a child who can really experience all of my favorite things (no pun really intended)  and express her thoughts about them for the first time.

That being said, this year I wanted to do something fun for the advent countdown. So after pulling out my saved scraps from magazines and Pinterest pins featuring creative advent calendars, I was thrilled to find a cute and easy little mitten countdown at Hobby Lobby (half price, so a total of $3)! All of the ideas I had saved for advent required more time and crafty work than I really wanted to put in so I was really relieved to find these mittens.

I did want to make the countdown something special and interactive so on the back of each mitten I added an activity that we will do each day. Some of them are crafts, some involve making food, some involve doing something nice for someone else and some are just simple activities out of the ordinary, like eating a meal next to the Christmas tree.

Bella was totally thrilled about it but I'm not sure if she really knew why. I think part of her just knew it was something new and exciting :) Palmer, my husband, is genuinely excited about it too. He told me he looks forward to seeing what new thing we're going to do each day and that was a pleasant surprise. Being so terribly pregnant and uncomfortable, I've not been able to do or plan anything very exciting for a while. And I've been feeling really guilty about it. So to have something the whole family is truly enjoying through the whole month of December really is special. (Wow, I reached a new level of cheesiness)

So anyway, every morning the first thing we do is go downstairs, unpin a mitten and see what we're going to do that day.
I lied. The first thing we do is take 30+ minutes trying to get out of bed without getting Bella's morning poop on the sheets. After that we take down a mitten.

So begins December...

Day 1: 

"Watch Christmas movie with egg nog and cookies!"

We made pumpkin snicker doodles (using this recipe) and watched a rather lame compilation of retro holiday cartoons that was streaming on Netflix. It went exactly how I had hoped it would. Bella loved it all. The snicker doodles were perfect. It was the third cookie I've made that I've thought, "Holy crap. I, the self proclaimed notoriously bad baker, made this". The egg nog was okay (low fat...boo) but when I asked Bella if she liked it she said she did. I asked her what she thought it tasted like and she said, "Milk!". She then drank all of hers. Then the rest of mine. And finally held her head back for a comedically long amount of time patiently waiting for the last few drops of daddy's to ease out of his glass.
She also really enjoyed the cartoons even though I thought they were a little lame. Through the cartoons she was introduced to the story of Rudolf which was exciting to see her take in.

So our first day of advent was a total success. We're on day 4 now and I'll be posting a little about those as I can.

Until then, let the Advent adventure continue!

Day 2: Have a meal by the Christmas tree!

Bella's haste getting down the stairs to our mittens that morning was so cute. She unpinned it and let me read the back of the mitten to her. When I read it and explained that we could have dinner by the Christmas tree she had a big smile on her face as she looked at the mitten. 

Eating on the floor next to the Christmas tree was something I didn't anticipate her enjoying so much but her excitement over this tiny and simple event out of the ordinary is a great reminder that sometimes the littlest, easiest things can mean so much more to a child. 

Day 3: Make cinnamon rolls for breakfast dinner!

I had planned to take a picture of her holding a numbered mitten to attach to each of our documented December days, but my little stinker has been expertly picky about when she gets her picture taken and what she'll agree to do for the camera. And holding up a numbered mitten is not something she's been agreeing to.

Anyway, day 3 she slightly more casually made her way down the stairs to our clothesline of mittens. However, she was very excited when I told her we would be making cinnamon rolls...for dinner! The insanity!
(They were originally intended for breakfast until I read ahead how long it would take to make them)
Even more insane...making cinnamon rolls from scratch!
This craziness is coming from the lady who was surprised to have made a cookie that wasn't terrible only 2 days before. 

So after Googling what "proofing" dough meant and fumbling with the disturbing idea that active yeast is actually something that comes to life or something, I dove into this recipe for Pumpkin Maple Rolls.

It took me all day to make these things and I still have cinnamon under my nails, but that part I'm not complaining about. I didn't really care for how they turned out, but my husband loved them and I so wish I could have got a picture of Bella literally stuffing her face with hers. She hit a moment of crazy, maybe it was a sugar rush, and shoved as much as she could in her mouth, eyes wide and darting around as she chomped on that cinnamon roll over and over. So, with that mental image, I think I'll give the recipe a nod of approval. :) And that was how we wrapped up Day 3!

Day 4: Take a treat to a neighbor!

Well, I feel terrible. We packed up 6 of our best looking cinnamon rolls and I told Bella we would take them to one of our friends in the neighborhood, or maybe even the mom we see across the street that we've never met, and we didn't. Part of it was my discomfort with approaching people with "gifts" of any sort. The fear is complicated but it boils down to the basic fear of rejection. BUT, I added that to one of our mittens so that we could both experience the joy of that random (and simple) act of kindness and to get myself over those kinds of situations that cause me to hesitate. 
However, as I get further and further along in my pregnancy (36 weeks!!) I've been experiencing progressively worse pelvic pain. I will not use this Advent post to go into details about...uncomfortable things like that, but it's been terribly painful to move around this week. I decided to wait until Palmer came home from work to deliver them as a family and after a call to the doctor and last minute visit to make sure the pain wasn't due to anything serious, we lost time in our day to do it. I've made myself promise not to let it go though - Day 4 was a great opportunity to teach Bella the greatness of kindness. And to put myself into another opportunity to beat the anxiety of it. 
So, Day 4 is to be continued...

Day 5: Take treats to daddy's work!

Not much explanation or many pictures to go with this day. We surprised daddy with his favorite kind of sugar cookies I just found the recipe for. You ready? They're sugar cookies...with cream cheese. I don't even want to share the recipe but I feel  like I should. So, you're welcome.

Day 6: Find a special ornament to hang!

My initial intent with the "find an ornament" idea was to buy a special ornament just for her, wrap it and hide it in the house for her to find. I couldn't find an ornament that I liked enough to be her special ornament and my "extra fun" budget was low enough that I couldn't really justify buying a random ornament that she may not like next year (like the Baabaa or Dora ones I was looking at). 
So, we changed it up and made an ornament, which was a much better idea anyway. 

I was lucky enough to find a recipe for sugar ornaments that was extremely easy and I had everything for it (it's really exciting when that actually happens). So those were our plans and she didn't let me forget about it :) 
Huh...I wonder why I can hardly ever get her into focus.

(I'm really irritated that it rotated some of my pictures...I'm sure everyone noticed.)

Baby belly photobomb

Ta da!

Totally pleased with her finished product

Yup, totally pleased

PS: Writing on sugar is hard.

Day 7: Make a craft as a family! 

We had every intention of making a craft. But this is what actually happened:

The snowflakes we were going to decorate and hang on our tree outside ended up serving a much greater purpose being thrown into the air. 
I was laid up on the couch so this craft totally worked for me. 
Yet another reminder to me that kids don't need elaborate plans to make the best of anything :)

Day 8: Write a letter to someone!

Lucky for us, Saturday, December 8th was Bella's Grandpa's birthday! We called to wish Grandpa a Happy Birthday and that evening we asked her who she wanted to write her letter to. She said, "Popop" (which I had to clarify which Popop she meant - she calls her Papa and her Grandpa the same thing now which causes some confusion sometimes) so Bella wrote a special letter to Grandpa!

Daddy helped Bella transcribe her letter 

"Dear Poppop, Happy Birthday. Cake. Puppy Diggy here. I'm drinking milk. I love you!"

We mailed the letter the next day because...

Day 9: Make a card for someone and mail it!

Bella chose to make a card for Nana and Papa that day! 

She told me that she was drawing a kitty with a fork. Sure, why not!

I have no idea what she was talking about in this letter. She talks in sentences much better than she used to but this letter doesn't quite show that - silly girl :)

Her mailbox attire looks way weirder than it really was. She did grab her purse and dress heels for the trek but I promise I did have a shirt on her; I'm not sure what happened to the neckline.

I think we all really enjoyed collaborating on a real letter. The fact that we wrote down exactly what she said may be a little bit over her head but she still enjoyed it and loved decorating it. 

Day 10: Watch a Christmas movie with homemade popcorn!
Pay no attention to the repeat outfit from the day before...
I was excited for this day because it meant we were going on the hunt for the real Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which I was pretty sure she would enjoy. Family Video's holiday movies were completely picked over but Hastings had a lot to choose from and all of it was in stock, which was really great for us. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain to Bella why we were going home without the "deer show".
I realized later that the "homemade popcorn" part of the activity was much more ambitious than I cared to be. So we just made regular popcorn which was literally just as exciting to her. 
I asked her what she thought when she first heard the popcorn pop and this was her reaction. 
She was loving the Island of Misfit Toys 

Day 11: Bella chooses what's for dinner!
Somebody didn't want to wait for Mama to get to the bottom of the stairs today. She also didn't feel like getting dressed (again) which, hey, neither do I half of the time. 
I read the back of this one to her and didn't even explain what it meant before she replied, "Cookies!".
"What?! You want cookies for dinner?!"
"I was thinking we could go to the store and you could pick something out, like a pizza or cheeseburgers."
"No, cookies!"
That's all it took to convince me. 
Cookies for dinner made for one happy girl. 
Day 12: Candy with Breakfast!
Weeell, we had a busy/lazy/I'm not getting off the couch after noon day. So we didn't get our mitten taken down until after naptime which meant we got to have candy for a snack!

Baabaa got some treats too, the big mooch! 
Day 13: Watch Christmas movie with a holiday treat!

Her reaction to watching the "deer show" again? (That's how Bella refers to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)

This reaction is funny because this is what actually happened:

She didn't nap, despite my solid reasoning that she should, and when naptime was over she came down the stairs trying very hard to be cheerful and even perky. Her eyes looked exhausted but the height of her raised eyebrows and cheery smile were trying to persuade me otherwise. She sat next to me while I finished watching a show and I kissed her periodically while we cuddled, which she never does anymore. Then when I leaned to kiss her head again I noticed she was out. 
When she woke up from her short nap the proposition of the deer show made her cranky, so she had a tea party with daddy instead. Oh well!

Day 14: Make a gingerbread house!

Oh boy!!
I wanted to be terribly adventurous and make our own gingerbread for the house so I used this recipe and altered it to work for our house.
I was especially excited about this mitten's activity because Bella has been really into the story of the Gingerbread man, especially the book about the Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. 
There are so many cheesy captions I've come up with for this one. 
Going pretty well!
I'll take a moment to add that Bella loves egg nog - especially when we put rum in it. JK about the rum.
Adding finishing touches
The next day we visited my parents where we made gingerbread people to go with our house. 

Day 15: Wear new Christmas PJs to bed! 

She was a little tired...

My original plan was to buy her new Christmas PJs to have waiting for her under the tree. Then I found they were $10+ for a new pair...so nevermind. Instead she spent the night at her Nana and Papa's where she wore some Christmas PJs they had there so we were able to follow through with the mitten plan - mostly.

Day 16: Read the story about the birth of Jesus!

She was so over posing for the camera.
We are fully aware that we are some of the luckiest people alive to have parents that live close enough that they can take Bella when we need a sitter with no hesitation and even more lucky and grateful that they keep her overnight. That being said, she had spent another night with Nana and Papa because we had tickets to a concert this night but I let them know what the mitten had said and she read the Nativity story with Nana.
To make up for missing out on two mittens in a row, we also read it the next day, too.

It was nice enough out that we had a book and hot chocolate picnic with leftover gingerbread. Not bad for December! 
Day 17: Send a letter to a friend!

I asked Bella what friend she wanted to send her letter to and she immediately replied, "Bibbit". (I don't know how "Emmett" has gone into so many variations. She refuses to try to say it correctly.)

"Emmett, Merry Christmas! Baabaa is at Nana's house. Me so happy to see Baabaa. Send Emmett letter in the mailbox. Bye! Bella"

Day 18: Unwrap a book to read!

Surprise, surprise, I couldn't get her to pose with the number. I think this time we can let it slide.
Bella was SO excited to finally be allowed to open a present! 

And her special bedtime book was...
Llama Llama Holiday Drama!
She wasn't as excited as I had maybe hoped...but I think it had more to do with it being bedtime. Unwrapping a special book is something I hope I can keep a tradition. I have so many books in Bella's collection that have small notations inside their front pages that my parents wrote to me. Those books mean more to me now than they ever have before which is why I hope to do the same for Bella. Maybe she won't care about silly little kids books when she's older or maybe she'll treasure them like I do. Either way, you can't go wrong with a good book and a note from Mama and Daddy. 

Day 19: Daddy picks what we do!

Well...we have no pictures and no real memory of actually doing this mitten...so, whoops!

Day 20: Go see a Christmas light show!

I had made this mitten thinking we could drive to one of those fancy little music/Christmas light demonstrations somewhere but we had a surprise that kept us home bound for the day...

We took full advantage of our first snow of the season! 

Bemmetts did NOT like the snow...so I tossed him in for a picture.
I have to post this picture of 10 month old Bella and 2 1/2 year old Bella. I still see that little baby sometimes. :)
Day 21: Decorate cookies!

We actually ended up making and decorating cookies over two different days (not even including this one, whoops). Silly girl is so busy I can't keep her attention long enough to do some things like that but she really enjoyed the time that did keep her attention.

And Baabaa supervised
We finally got around to decorating them. Lo and behold...I don't think she actually ate a single cookie; she only wanted to eat the frosting. 
Day 22: Visit Crown Center!

(Boy we fell behind on the whole "picture of the mitten" deal)

Going to Crown Center is one of my favorite Christmas traditions! They have some of the same holiday attractions set up as they did when I was little. 

The countdown to Christmas! 
"Nice to meet you..."

The escalators easily may have been her favorite thing here.
Totally admiring the gingerbread village. This was kind of insane - it's all actual edible gingerbread and candy made by a local bakery. As Sweet Brown would say: "Ain't nobody got time fo that."


The belly
Watch out, Daddy! There's a snowball headed straight for you!
This girl is loved.

And we love her

Day 23: Go look at Christmas lights and drink hot cocoa!

We had to catch up on these photo ops on Christmas day - pretend you didn't notice.

For some unknown reason, the end of December starts getting a little crazy. (Surely it doesn't have anything to do with Christmas or preparing for a baby or any little thing like that). So I don't know that we even did anything this night, but we did drive around and look at Christmas lights on Christmas night, so we sort of followed through. 

Day 24: Write a list of 5 things you're thankful for and mail them to our family!

I got this idea from elsewhere and thought it was a really great thing to do on Christmas eve; maybe even making it a tradition. I could easily go into the why's involving taking away some of the focus on presents and taking a moment to reflect on our blessings, all the cheesy stuff. But I'm not going to because we didn't even do it. Whoops. We spent Christmas eve with my parents playing games and opening presents. Lots of laughing, relaxing and talking about our next Christmas with an almost one year old and an almost 4 year old. I personally didn't have to write my list to remember what I'm thankful for. Oh shoot, that was pretty cheesy. Sorry.

Well, here's pictures from our Christmas eve.
She (miraculously) fell asleep before dinner. I have never in my life had to actually try to keep her awake enough to go eat and open presents! What?!
She loved delivering presents!
My grandma made her a little cat that is totally adorable! 
Oh my gosh this picture cracks me up. It's slightly awkward and Bella's face seemingly smashed into my belly is hysterical. 
Bella has started doing this slow, hard blink that totally cracks me up. 

My little Jackie O

Her new friend


Good thing there were only 25 mittens. She was super underwhelmed about posing with them.

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