Our trip on the Christmas Express

I saw the most adorable post at Confessions of a Homeschooler about taking your kids for a ride to look at Christmas lights using a Polar Express theme.  She called it the "MiniVan Express,"  but since we don't have a minivan, we used her "Christmas Express" template.  It was so cute!

I printed out the tickets and glued two together (front and back) so that it looked like a real ticket.  I made the boys up a little snack of brownies with Christmas sprinkles, and some - what we call - "bunny goldfish," which are those Annie's Organie Bunny crackers similar to Goldfish crackers.  I decorated the car with some strings of garland, and hid 2 bells in the car for when we got back home.  All while hubby was reading the boys "The Night Before Christmas." 

I placed the tickets on the doormat for them to find, then readied myself near the car with a "conductor's hat" (Little Guys police officer halloween costume) on, and a hole puncher in hand.

They boys got their tickets punched, then hopped into "The Christmas Express!"

We rode around our neighborhood and looked at the Christmas lights, singing Christmas songs along with the radio.  It was such fun!

We all took turns passing around the "Conductor's" hat. 

Then we traveled to a neighborhood where all the houses participated in decorating.  It was pretty great!
When we finally arrived back home, they each received a bell - just like The Polar Express.  It was a really fun night, and they've already requested that it be a tradition each year!


Coffeemate Santas

One of the things I just love about the holidays is coffee.  I don't usually drink coffee at all until October; and then I drink it everyday until January.  And I only drink it for the holiday flavors.  Pumpkin Spice in the Fall, and Peppermint Mocha in the Winter.  Mmmmm....

Now that we're doing homeschooling, I'm always on the lookout for a project idea.  Which is probably why when I went to throw away my Pumpkin Spice creamer bottle back in October, I saw Santa Claus.  That red top was a Santa hat to me, so I washed out the bottle and saved it.
 Do you see Santa??  I totally did....

Ok, so here's what we did.  Since it's a holiday week, there is no school; but we still wanted to do some fun activities.  My stepson (he's 8) just flew into town last night, and I had been saving this to do when he got here.  He loves doing "projects."  I peeled the labels off the bottles, and filled an egg carton with paint colors. 

*I find that using an egg carton works really well to hold all the different paint colors you may want to use.

I asked the boys what they saw when they looked at the bottles, and Big Guy said, "A Christmas tree!"  Little Guy quickly copied Big Guy's answer, so I told them to paint whatever they wanted.  Big Guy promptly decided he would change his to a penguin.  He started painting his bottle blue, and Little Guy set to work on a multicolored masterpiece. 

Halfway through, Big Guy decided he was going to change his penguin to a Santa like mine.  Little Guy decided he'd had enough of painting and that playing with the dirty water sounded like a better idea!
Here's a look at our finished products!

Big Guy's:
Little Guy's:
I glued a little pompom to the lid for Santa's hat.  Super fun!

C is for Christmas

This week we learned about the letter C, and alllll the sounds it makes.  Ready for my rant?  Great, because here it is:

IF there is going to be a letter C at all, it should only make the "ch" sound.  Then you wouldn't need to use an H with it anymore, just C, so that the H can be free to make it's own sound. "Circle" should begin with an S, and "cat" should begin with a K.  That would make teaching children the letter sounds soooooo much easier.  But.......that's not how it works, so.....

Little Guy is familiar with the letter C, since that's what his name begins with.  And our last name.  And his brother's name.  So, he came up with a pretty nice sized list of C words this week. 

I thought we would fill this week with some fun Christmas activities, since this is our last week of "school" until the new year. 

I found a cute printable wreath at Toddler Approved.  It is made of circles for you to place red and green m&m's on.  Great for fine motor skills!
You can see we did school time a little late this day, because Little Guy's daddy came home during this activity. 
We also made edible Christmas trees; which you can read about here.
Did a couple of Christmas puzzles I found in the dollar section at Target.
We did our letter C writing practice page from Confessions of a Home Schooler, which is also where I was inspired to make this cute little numerical order caterpillar.
We also LOVE these prewriting practice sheets from Over the Big Moon!!
We also made a crown!

The books we read this week:

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle
(Little Guy absolutely LOVES this book.  He can pretty much recite it.)

"Mater Saves Christmas" by Kiel Murray
(Little Guy is obsessed with Disney Pixar Cars, so he loves this book, but honestly, it's not very good.  It's more like it should have been a Christmas movie, but they summarized it an smashed allllll the happenings into the book.  Too much dialogue, just too much going on)

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"  by Dr. Seuss
(How do you read this without choking up a little when the Grinch's heart grows??  I love it.)

"The 12 Days of Christmas" from Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury

"The Penguin Who Wanted to be Different"  by Maria O'Neill
(The idea of this book is great, but the actual story is terrible.  It makes me wonder how it even got published.  Little Guy (and I) were bored to death.)


How NOT to make a festive Peppermint Wreath

This year I needed a new wreath for our front door; but have you been to Michael's and seen the price of wreaths?!  Ridiculous!  While browsing Pinterest, I came across the most adorable Peppermint Wreath, and thought, "I can totally make that!"  Thus, begins my story of how NOT to make a peppermint wreath.

Totally cute, right?!  I know!

Honestly, I'm not really sure what went wrong..... I've narrowed it down to:
1.  I bought the wrong coating to spray over it.  OR
2.  People who live in Florida are copletely out of luck when it comes to Christmas-y decor such as this since we live in a bazillion (actual number?  eh...) percent humidity all the time.

Here's how I made my ADORABLE wreath for under $15, and you can decide for yourself. 

Here's what you will NOT need:

4 $1 bags of peppermints
1 pool noodle
some duck tape
hot glue gun
hot glue sticks
12 yards of red ribbon
a bow
spray lacquer
a wreath hook

Let the adventure begin!!

I started my journey at Michael's.  Wrong decision.  The styrofoam wreaths were like $10, and ribbon (what ugly shades of semi-red that were left after all the crazy crafters who began on their Christmas wreaths back in October) was $6.99 a roll!  Yikes!  So, I quickly left there and headed to the Dollar Tree. 

Hey, the point of this wreath was cute on a budget, remember?  Ok, so, we're at the Dollar Tree and I purchase:  1 pool noodle, 3/Three/Tres bags of peppermints, and 2/Two/Dos spools of ribbon (3 yards each). 

As soon as I get home, I set to work slicing the ends of the pool noodle at an angle so I can form it into a circle and tape it with duck tape.

Hooray!  I was getting pretty excited at this point!  "I'm totally going to make the cutest wreath ever - out of a POOL NOODLE and nobody will know!" 
Ha...  Anyway, then I got to work wrapping the noodle with the red ribbon I bought.  I don't know if you know this, but 3 yards of ribbon is not very much ribbon.  I covered almost half of the noodle. 

Ugh...now I'm at a standstill.  It's too late to go back to the store, so I will just have to wait until tomorrow to get more ribbon. 

Ok, it's tomorrow.  When my hubby gets home from work, I leave to go back to the Dollar Tree, and since I have to pick up a couple of Christmas presents, I go to a different part of town with a different Dollar Tree.  Oh, yes.  You know what's coming. 
I get to the different Dollar Tree and they have 6 giant boxes of ribbon!!!  And NONE of them are the ribbon I bought the previous day at the previous Dollar Tree.  Luckily, the girl who works there helped me out and found me 1/ONE/UNO spool of the ribbon I bought the day before. 
I needed 2!!  I decided the ribbon was going to be under peppermints, and no one would be able to tell that it was different.  So my last spool ended up being red trimmed in glitter. 
Ugh.  Clue #1 that this wasn't going to go well. 

The next day, when I get back to covering the wreath with ribbon, things are going great.  I cover the whole wreath and start taking a bazillion (I know, I know) peppermints out of their wrappers and gluing them on. 
See the two different types of ribbon??

Anywho,  I'm gluing on my peppermints when, naturally, I run out.  I need one more bag!! 

I pack up the Little Guy and we head to the closest grocery store.  They have peppermints!  $1.28 for a bag.  Cool. 
Then I remember I never bought any coating to spray the wreath with when it's finished.  There is none, of course, at the grocery store.  So, Little Guy and I head to a Super Walmart, because they have paint, so surely they will have some shellac. 

*Let me add that I love Super Walmart - in the same way that I love being hit in the head with a hammer. 

When we get there, they do have a paint section, but the only kind of coating I can find is a lacquer.  After a call to my mom (yep, throwing you under the bus, mom) who says it will probably be fine, and $7, and a treat at the checkout (remember Little Guy came along); I'm on my way back home to finish this darn wreath.
Yay!  Yes, I know it's got a little conehead, but that part will be covered by the bow and set into the wreath holder.

Outside we go to spray.  The directions basically say spray, wait 30 minutes, spray again. 
So I did it 3 times, just to be sure.
When it's dry, I hot glue my bow on top and can't wait to hang it up!! 
Yay!!  My totally awesome peppermint wreath is done!  I did it, all for under $15 and it's way cuter that one of those fake garland wreaths you find in the store!!  Whoo-hoo!!!
When hubby comes home I ask if he liked my wreath. 
He didn't even see it. 
Of course not. 
I was working on it for days, and it's finally outside, and......he's a man. 
So I make him go out to look at it and he says, "It's covered in ants." 
I'm thinking, "yeah right." 
I thought he was just messing with me because he's a big teaser, but he definitely wasn't.
We took it down, sprayed the front door with bug spray, and added a generous amount of the lacquer all over the wreath again. 
That should do it! 
Problem averted.

Until the next morning.....
So that's my lesson on how NOT to make a festive peppermint wreath.  I've decided we will have no wreath this year while we mourn the loss of my beloved creation.

G is for Georgia!

This week we worked on the letter G, which is one of those letters that really gets to me.  A G should only make the sound like in garden; and gingerbread should start with a J.  That way little kids won't be so confused when they are trying to make sense of our crazy system of reading and writing.  Just like C, K, and S; but don't get me started.

Anywho, this week was a little wonky for us, because we were out of town for part of it.  That's what is so wonderful about homeschooling.  You can take the classroom with you wherever you go.  And usually when you happen to be going somewhere; the classroom is better!  It's always better to learn by experiencing and doing. I don't know any other preschoolers who took a field trip to Georgia during thier letter G week!  

Since we were in Georgia so I could help pick pecans at my grandparent's place, my mom agreed to do school with Little Guy on Monday. 

So, here we go!  Here are some photos of Grandma's day with Little Guy and the letter G:

At the end of our day we went outside to run around on the property.

And who can resist jumping into piles of leaves!

Super fun!!

Once we were back at home, we started playing the Christmas game I made!  I make these games for every holiday.  They are just easy enough and can be played pretty quickly without much setup.  Little Guy always loves them!  Here is a look at our Christmas game:

The game pieces are just little cellophane wrapped present ornaments that you can find at the Dollar Tree.  The objective is to get your present to the Christmas Tree first! I think next game I might add a skip __# of spaces and a go back __# of spaces, just to up the challenge a little. 

We did our Find the G's worksheet from Confessions of a Homeschooler

And what is Letter G week during December without reading the story of the Gingerbread Man and making Gingerbread Men??

The books we read this week:

"Gertie Gorilla's Glorious Gift" by Barbara DeRubertis
(these books are so great.  Cute little stories filled with words that begin with the letter of the week)

"Goldilocks and the Three Bears" retold by Jan Brett
(Little Guy LOVED this one.  He actually made me renew it at the library)

"Grandpa's Garden Lunch" by Judith Casey
(Not bad, but nothing special)

"Gugi Gugi" by Chih-Yuan Chen
(GREAT story about an alligator who ended up in a duck nest as an egg.  The duck mother takes him as one of her own, and one day, he runs into a group of alligators who tell him that since he's an alligator he should be bad like them.  He ends up doing the right thing, because he knows that doing what's right for his real family (the ducks who love him) is the way to go.) 

"The Gingerbread Man" retold by Jim Aylesworth
(A classic!  Little Guy LOVED this one too!)

If you don't already have one, I highly recommend getting a MagnaDoodle. They are awesome. Little Guy can practice his writing anywhere with me having to worry about him writing on things that he shouldn't. I write simple words on them and have him guess what they say. When he was younger, I would use it to have him guess what letter or number I was writing.


M is for Messy!

M is for Messy, and boy, did we make a mess!  I was really proud of Little Guy though, because he dove right in to this week's activities!

We started out the week getting used to letter M and the sound it makes.  Little Guy gets confused sometimes with N, and M, so we worked on identifying M. 

Little Guy also LOVES marshmallows, so I thought he could use marshmallows to make a letter M on construction paper.  I only had the giant marshmallows though, so he didn't exactly get the fine motor work I was hoping for, but it was still a fun activity. 

I think Little Guy's favorite part was stuffing a couple into his mouth!

I also found this recipe for making a moon painting.  It's equal parts elmer's glue and shaving cream.  I also added in a hint of grey/gray (I never can decide) paint.  I drew a circle on a piece of construction paper, and let Little Guy go to town filling in the circle to make his moon.

He started out painting the mixture on with a paintbrush.

Then, decided he'd try using his finger.

It pretty quickly became more about the shaving cream mixture and less about the moon...

I saw where this was headed, so we took off his shirt and dumped out the mixture.  I put a big squirt of plain shaving cream on the table and let Little Guy go to town!!  He LOVED it! 

It was definitely a great time!

We let Little Guy's moon dry overnight, and here's the finished product:

We also talked about our muscles this week.  The different types and how they work.  Little Guy's favorite part was when we went into the bathroom mirror and watched our pupils expand and contract when we turned the lights off and on!

Then, we played this fun little matching game from Little Guy's Grandparents.  You match a picture to the capital and lowercase letter it begins with.

We also broke out the Toy Story Memory game this week.

The books we read this week were:

"My 'M' Book"  by Jane Belk Moncure
(these books are awesome for little ones learning letter sounds)

"Long Night Moon" by Cynthia Rylant
(told about each months moon and what it was supposed to be for according to Native Americans.  I really liked it, and Little Guy loved naming who's birthday was in each month)

"You Can't Make a Move Without Your Muscles" by Paul Showers
(Awesome!  There were little activities for you to do to feel certain muscles move in your body.  I did have to skip through a couple of paragraphs to make sure it was flowing quickly enough for Little Guy.)

"Machines" by Anne and Harlow Rockwell
(Little Guy liked it despite the outdatedness (if that's a word) of it)
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