All Aboard the Minivan Express! {free ticket download}

Minivan Express Tickets

Last year, we had so much fun our Minivan Express ride that I am super excited to do it again this year! I strung lights in the van, popped popcorn and poured our thermoses to the top with tea and hot cocoa.  The boys had a blast!  We listened to the Polar Express audiobook and we read stories from this vintage Christmas book.  It was so wonderful.  Except for one minor detail that was overlooked…we forgot we lived in the country.  Which basically means we had to drive for miiiiles to see enough lights to satisfy our bunch!


[Read more…]

Felt Christmas Tree Tutorial

felt christmas tree diy

felt christmas tree Last year, I remembered the adorable little felt tree I’d seen on Pinterest but like always I remembered a bit too late.  It was only a week or so from Christmas so I just made one really quick to see how the kids would like it.  They all had so much fun with it that this year we made a bigger project of it.

While the point of this tree is to help keep little fingers off of the real tree, I’m not quite sure I think it will do that.  At least, not in our house, lol.  But it’s worth it anyway to watch them use their imaginations and have such a good time with it.   This morning when they woke up, it was the first thing Lucky and Sprout ran to.  <3 [Read more…]

2013 Summer Bucket List

Summer Bucket List

You know I’m a huge fan of lists. Mostly due to the fact that I’m dependent on them. They help keep things fresh on my mind and quite honestly, I remember next to nothing without them. So, lists are very good in my opinion.

Before Ace started Kindergarten at Harvard, we had a list of 100 things we wanted to do that summer. Now, four years later Lucky is preparing for Kindergarten. Even as I type those words, I don’t believe it. It still has not gotten any easier sending them off to school. Instead of Kindergarten Blues, I’ve had First, Second and Third Grade Blues. It stinks not having my little army of men at home with me all day and I am dreading having two of them away instead of one.

But, I am determined to make this summer as fun as possible for Lucky, the same way I did for Ace. So, we started by making a list of things he wanted to do. The list started like this:


We’ve already done a few things on the list and it’s grown significantly since we first started it.

And apparently, I’m not the only one with a list dependency because now these lists have a title:  Bucket Lists.  Every time you turn around, someone is making a bucket list for a different season or holiday.

I found this great printable Summer Bucket List on Pinterest.  There are a ton of them out there, but I wanted a blank one that we could fill in with things that sounded fun or special to us specifically.  So, we used this one from Three Monkeys Studio.

Printable Summer Bucket List

You can download it here.  Also, there are other fun summer ideas on my Summer Fun board that you can check out.  I’ll be highlighting the activities orange as we complete them.

Some of the other things we added to our list are:

  •  Make Bubble Snakes
  • Go swimming
  • Picnic at Park
  • Play Legos a lot
  • Read a Book a Day
  • Bake macarons
  • Go to the Zoo
  • Pack a lunch and Visit a Museum
  • Root Beer Float Date
  • Have a Water Balloon Fight
  • Go Fishing
  • Opposite Day
  • Go Roller Skating
  • Bake Cookies for Fire Station
  • Go to a Festival
  • Trace Our Shadows
  • Make Ice Cube Sidewalk Chalk
  • Visit a Monastery (out of state)
  • Go for a Walk in our PJ’s
  • Play in the Rain
  • Catch Crawfish in the Creek
  • Have Breakfast for Dinner
  • Catch Lightning Bugs
  • Play Kick the Can
  • Earn Prizes from Summer Reading Program
  • Go Camping
  • Finger Paint
  • Hike a Trail
  • Make a Nature Rubbing
  • Attempt to Break a World Record
  • Bake a Pie
  • Eat a Giant Cupcake
  • Have a Bonfire and Make S’mores
  • Put Sprinkles on Everything for a Day
  • Play Flashlight Tag
  • Go to the Drive-In
  • Tie-Dye T-shirts
  • Make Slime
  • Go Canoeing

and it’s still growing!  I’ll continue updating this list as we add things to ours!  Any suggestions?

feels like springtime

springtime fun

the weather lately has been so crazy here.  one week it’s freezing and down in the teens at night and then the following week it’s in the high 70’s.  the past few days have felt more like spring than winter and it makes me wonder if winter is going to show up this year or not.

yesterday, the boys and i played outside for awhile and ace convinced me to dust off my old bike and take them up the street.  i’ve always loved riding my bike and didn’t realize how long it had been.  once the babies started coming, i sort of gave it up.  we moved on to regular walks and wagon rides.  or the big boys would ride their bikes and i would push the stroller alongside them.  but man, i had so much fun yesterday that i am off to wal-mart today to buy a new basket and am planning to enjoy my old huffy for as long as the weather allows.

it’s the sort of weather that makes me want to pull out my gardening gloves and dig in the dirt.  i did pull out my seed catalog this morning and make a list of what we want to plant soon.  Every year we order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  i love this company.  they sell pure heirloom seeds and everything we’ve ever ordered from them has turned out terrific.  it’s important to me to know what kind of seeds i’m getting.  we make such an effort to buy organic and i think it’s equally important to make sure what we’re growing is just as good. baker creek fights for pure seeds and that is something that is very important to me.

we’ll also be adding some eggs to the incubator in a few days so that we have lots of new spring chickens!  the boys always look forward to that and this is the first year sprout will actually know what’s going on.  i can’t wait.  :)

lucky has been busy painting the sidewalk with these awesome sidewalk paints we got in one of our wonderboxes.  they are so cool!

as soon as ours run out, i’m definitely going to try some of the recipes to make your own.  the paint is also great because it takes longer to actually draw with it and my boys always seems to scrape their chalk down to a stub so fast and then the fun is over.  and the paint dries really nice, too.  the boys  had so much fun with it.

i think we’ll be pulling out the bubbles later today.  springtime and bubbles just go together, don’t they?  by the way, have you guys seen this commercial?  It makes me smile.

what are some of your favorite things to do in the spring?

All Aboard the Minivan Express! {free download}

Minivan Express Tickets

Every year we pile the kids up in our van and head out in search of Christmas lights.  I usually make hot chocolate and put it in their thermos cups.  We joke around and sing carols and talk about which houses we liked the best.  We always try to count how many Nativity scenes we see, even though sadly enough there are fewer each year..

Like many parents, I love Christmas pajamas.  Usually, I give them their new jammies on Christmas Eve, but then they only wear them once before Christmas and even though they wear them plenty afterward, they sort of lose their magic, don’t they?  So, last year I wrapped them up and let them open them early.

So, this year I want to make it really fun and combine these two traditions.  Here’s my plan:

I asked my awesome sister-in-law Sveta, who is a graphic designer, to design “Minivan Express” tickets for me.  I printed them out, laminated them and am planning on hiding them under their pillows. Their pajamas are already washed and wrapped.

Tomorrow night before bed, I’ll let them open their pajamas and put them on and then I’ll send them off to bed.  In the meantime,  I’ll be making a giant thermos of hot chocolate and some popcorn (if I’m really feeling brave).  I’m going to string lights inside of the van and bring along a CD of our favorite Christmas carols.  Then, I’ll impatiently wait for them to come out asking what the tickets are for. Then, they’ll line up to get their tickets punched and we’ll drive over to our local Barnes & Noble for their Polar Express event, where there will be Polar Express themed treats and activities and most of the kids come in pajamas and robes.  It’s really cute.  Most B&N’s around the country are hosting their event on Friday (as in tomorrow), December 7 at 7:00 p.m.   For a list of participating stores, click here.

After that, our annual tour of Christmas lights around town will begin.  We’ll count the Nativity sets and I’ll read them stories from this book, it’s a Christmas favorite of ours.  The stories in there are good reminders of the true reason for the season and help us all keep our perspective.

I can’t wait!   The tickets are available for free and can be downloaded here and here.

If this turns out to be as much fun as I hope, I see the Minivan Express making another trip to the duck pond to walk around their giant light display soon!

Road Trip Activities


I mentioned in a previous post that I made some Orthodox Saints activity binders for the kids to take with us on our upcoming road trip. Well, I decided to combine them with some other road trip activities for our trip. [Read more…]

Orthodox Saint Activity Binders

orthodox saint binders

Yesterday afternoon, the boys and I put together a couple of new binders.

Saints of North America and Saints in Times of Trouble are two wonderful pdf’s available for free from the OCA Department of Religious Education. [Read more…]

Holy Week Activities for Kids

In preparation for Holy Week, I try to find some fun activities to get the boys involved. This year, since I can’t attend any of the services (I’m still in my 40 days), I have even more time to spend reading about holy week and doing various activities with them.

One thing we all love are the Resurrection Eggs from FamilyLife ministries. There is an Orthodox translation of the booklet (also available from Phyllis Onest) called Pascha Eggs that we use every year. This is a great activity that both of my boys enjoy (that is becoming more difficult as Ace gets older and is no longer interested in “baby” games, etc.). We bought our set from Wal-mart quite a few years ago, but I know Hobby Lobby (print a 40% off coupon) and most Christian bookstores carry them too.

I also pulled out our JOURNEY TO PASCHA: A Daily Guide Through Holy Week binder. It is available through the Greek Archdiocese and can be downloaded for free here. The booklet goes through each day of holy week, describing each service and explaining what it means. There is an icon for each day as well.

Last year, I printed out the story explaining why we dye our Pascha eggs red. I added it to the back of our binder along with the coloring sheets for holy week. It is available here from Orthodox Christian Education. The coloring sheets can be found here (sorry for the scribbles) :).

The most recent thing I printed out is the Lenten Board Game from Phyllis Onest, director of education for the Pittsburgh metropolis (GOA). It has over eighty questions and answers and the board is composed of various icons from holy week, etc. The questions are a little advanced for Lucky, and some even for Ace, but I just paraphrase those ones into something slightly different to help them understand or make up my own questions on the really tough ones.

Listen to my latest interview on Come Receive the Light. The topic is Surviving Holy Week with Children.

Sibling Kits & Classes

Last weekend I took the boys to the hospital for the Sibling Class. They had such a great time! They watched a funny little video about babies and being a big brother or sister. The instructor let them pick out a baby doll or stuffed animal and then showed them how to properly hold a baby and how they could help Mommy change and swaddle them.

Then they got to choose from oodles of stickers and markers and confetti to make a card for the new baby’s bassinet.

Ace made two. The first one he cut into the shape of a goat. The second one, he glued his picture and wrote a longer note, reminding the baby of the benefit of being a boy and playing with GI Joes.

Lucky, who is now rooting for a girl for the first time since the beginning of my pregnancy, glued his picture and gave me very detailed instructions on what to write on the card. He wanted to remind the baby how much fun he and Ace are and how much the baby is going to love them. :)

I finally put together sibling kits for them too. I made little tags that say “Biggest Brother and Big Brother” and filled them with goodies to keep them busy while they are waiting for their new brother or sister. Luckily, my mom is flying in this week and will keep them busy. They love their Yiayia!

I filled them with things like mini coloring/activity books, crayons, a lollipop, coin purses with change for the vending machines, bubbles (they’ll be outside feeding the ducks while they wait), flashlights, big brother books, a big brother t-shirt and their cameras. I love the idea of them taking photos of their idea of how the day played out. I’m going to develop them and put them in little albums for their keepsake boxes.

I found these old-fashioned coin purses. I picked them up from a boutique near my house for two bucks each. Of course, I got them in their favorite colors.

I also found some fun Lego kits at TJ Maxx for $4.99. The boys will go home to spend a special night alone with Baba and I figured this will give them something fun to do together. So…now all we’re doing is waiting anxiously for the big day to arrive! I’m so excited!

Our Journey to Bethlehem

Our Journey to Bethlehem

Last night the boys and I spread out a blanket and gathered around the fireplace to read the first story from our Advent Storybook. It is a delightful book about a little bear’s journey to Bethlehem. Each night, the bear’s mother reads him a story while he opens the next door on his Advent calendar.

The little bear, led by a shining star, meets many others on his travels across hot deserts, snowy mountains, through dark, lonely nights. His adventures filled with acts of heroism and kindness, and many small miracles, show him the path to the Christ Child.

And by journey’s end, Benjamin Bear–and youngsters who share the stories and their simple morals along with him–will be ready to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas.

I love that each story ends with a little conversation between Benjamin Bear and his mother about God. Tonight’s story ends with,

“Does the mother eagle always catch her young when they fall?” asked Benjamin when his mother finished the story.


“If we trust in God, He will always catch us before we fall,” Mother Bear replied and gave Benjamin a big hug.”

I also cut out different icons for the feastdays that we celebrate during the month of December and on those nights, we’ll also read the story of the saint being celebrated.

On December 6, the story is about St. Nicholas, even though he is dressed like Santa Claus, but I like that at least he is acknowledged on his feast. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was an Orthodox book, celebrating the 40 days of Advent? Maybe in the future… :)

We did this last year for the first time and the boys just loved it, so I was really excited to begin again this Christmas season. So, as Ace and Lucky opened the first door on their calendar and nibbled on their treat, we began our own journey to Bethlehem.