Benefit of the Doubt

Lately, Sweet Boy has been saying “fine” — a lot. As in, “Eat your breakfast.” “Fine.” “Get dressed, please.” “Fine.”

Out of his mouth, the single syllable alternately drips with venom or whistles out on a breath of exasperation.

I joke that this is a preview of his 15-year-old self … but in reality, I had been giving him the benefit of the doubt. I figured that he had picked up the word and tone from a friend or TV (or, OK, maybe a parent), but that he really thought it was just another way of saying “OK” or “yes.”

Foolish, foolish Mommy.

Daddy finally got a little tired of the early adolescent attitude and told Sweet Boy that “fine” wasn’t really a nice answer.

“Well,” Sweet Boy explained logically, “‘fine’ is just a word for when you don’t really want to do what your parents want.”

Great.

Vocabulary and self-expression is well-developed. Attitude, um, advanced.

My Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan

I may have eaten out more in the past two weeks than the last year combined, but for the most part, I’m a homebody when it comes to mealtime. Planning and preparing my own food has been key in maintaining a healthy gestational diabetes diet. A friend recently asked for a peek at what my diet looks like, so I thought I’d share a few of my go-to items for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks with their estimated carbohydrate totals. These are some of my favorites, based both on my personal tastes and what I’ve learned works for my body. Everyone’s different, though, so learning what works for you may take some trial and error. (Talk to your doctor or dietician, too, about your carb goals for each meal — this is what was recommended for me but may not be what’s right for you!)

BREAKFAST (GOAL: 30 GRAMS)

Fruit is, unfortunately, a morning no-no for me — and I can’t tell you how much I’m craving gallons of orange juice after the baby is born. In the meantime, breakfast is a high-protein affair.

Option 1:

  • One slice of whole wheat toast (11 grams) with natural peanut butter (3 grams)
  • One container light Yoplait yogurt, any flavor (16 grams)

Option 2:

  • Egg sandwich: 1-2 eggs, scrambled or pre-baked as scrambled egg “muffins” (2 carbs), 1 slice of whole wheat toast (11 grams), 1 slice cheddar cheese (0 gram), 1 tablespoon ketchup (4 grams)
  • ½ cup skim milk (11 grams)

MORNING SNACK (GOAL: 15 GRAMS)

I pack a couple of snack options to take to work and choose whichever I’m in the mood for at my morning snack time. I try to eat the snack right after my post-breakfast blood sugar test, whether I’m super hungry or not, so that I don’t give into office-snack temptation (those M&Ms!).

Option 1:

  • String cheese (0 grams)
  • Satsuma orange (11 grams)

Option 2:

  • Apple (19 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter (6 grams)

Option 3:

  • Light Yoplait yogurt (16 grams)

Option 4:

  • 2 oz dry roasted peanuts (12 carbs)
  • String cheese

LUNCH (GOAL: 45 GRAMS)

My blood sugar tends to peak after lunch, so it’s important for me to try to plan my meals ahead of time instead of grabbing leftovers or takeout. Lunch meat is somewhat frowned upon for pregnant women, so I have been roasting a turkey breast in the oven every week or so to make just-like-the-day-after-Thanksgiving sandwiches. They’re a big hit with Hubby, too.

Option 1:

  • 2 cups green salad with ranch dressing (4 grams)
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese (1 gram)
  • ½ cup grapes (15 grams)
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter (14 grams)

Option 2:

  • Roast turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo (24 grams)
  • Satsuma orange or other fruit (11-19 grams)

AFTERNOON SNACK (GOAL: 15 GRAMS)

A different option from the morning snack list. Again, I try to eat my snack shortly after my after-lunch blood sugar test, so that I don’t get the munchies and face the temptation of less healthy snacks.

DINNER (GOAL: 45 GRAMS)

Really, if I watch my portion sizes, just about anything goes for dinner. Carbs, though, definitely need to be the side dish, not the entree. I’ve found I can have a bit of couscous or rice alongside a heartier meal. My body, however, doesn’t seem to process pasta well (even the whole wheat version), so I’ve found it very inefficient as a meal or side. We’re big on burritos, carnitas and quesadillas in my home, but tortillas also spike my blood sugar, despite their relatively acceptable carb content. If dinner has a Mexican theme, I’ll have one tortilla at most or just skip it and put the filling on a salad.

Option 1:

  • 1 baked or grilled chicken breast (0 carbs) or fish (2 carbs)
  • Steamed broccoli (7 carbs)
  • ¼ cup whole wheat couscous (33 carbs)

Option 2:

  • Tuna melt on whole wheat bread (23 grams)
  • ½ cup tomato soup (17 grams)

Option 3:

  • Beef roast (0 grams) with ¼ red potato (8 grams) and baby carrots (3 grams)
  • ½ cup peas (10 grams)
  • 4 Ak-Mak crackers (16 grams) with spreadable Laughing Cow cheese (1 gram)

Option 4:

  • Homemade chicken soup with gnocchi (29-40 grams)
  • Green salad (4 grams)

EVENING SNACK (GOAL: 15-30 GRAMS)

This tends to be where I splurge, depending on how much I’ve eaten throughout the day. For me, nighttime is the best time for a sweet snack, like a bit of ice cream or even a cookie (I’m really luck that I can handle a modest amount of processed sugar). However, it’s important to get something a little healthier in before bed, too, because if your sugar drops during the night, you’re body will over-compensate, likely reading to a high fasting level in the morning.

Option 1:

  • Anything from the morning/afternoon snack list

Option 2:

  • 1 slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter and/or homemade jam (14-30 grams)

Option 3:

  • ¼ pkg sugar-free pudding made with skim milk (16 grams) with or without 6 Nilla Wafers (18 grams)

Option 4:

  • 8 oz homemade smoothie with frozen berries, Greek yogurt, banana, skim milk (33 grams)
    This recipe makes more than 8 oz. That’s important, because a whole banana in 8 oz of smoothie would be way too many carbs!

Option 5:

  • ½ cup ice cream (19 grams) with or without diet rootbeer (0 grams)

Option 6:

  • 2 oz (before popping) air-popped popcorn (18 grams)

5 Tips for Eating Out with Gestational Diabetes

When I was a child, the Old Spaghetti Factory in Portland was my favorite birthday party location. Only now do I realize what a pain this must have been for my family. Located on the banks of the Willamette River, the highly popular restaurant features a ideal view of the Portland Christmas Ships Parade and does not take reservations. Sure, I remember the long waits as a kid, but now that I have a child myself, I understand that the waits had to have been a struggle with my sister and I, and often our cousins as well.

But, that’s where I always wanted to go for my week-before-Christmas birthday, so that’s where we went.

When my husband, son and I returned to Oregon a couple years ago, we reinstated the tradition. We time it to make sure we see the ships (which wasn’t a part of the childhood practice), and it becomes a double-celebration: pre-Christmas and birthday.

So I wasn’t about to let gestational diabetes get in the way this year — even if restaurants tend to be a struggle for the strict diet and the words “spaghetti factory” don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with low-carb fare.

I took the same approach I now do for any evening out, and it worked, for the most part (I was just a little high on my glucose reading two hours after the meal, and I learned that my body has become a bit unaccustomed to the richness of restaurant Italian food, but we had a great time).

Here are a few tips that I have found successful for eating out with gestational diabetes:

Consider Chains

As wonderful as local, independent restaurants can be, chain restaurants tend to be required to provide nutritional information about their food. Many even post the nutrition guide online for easy review prior to dinner or right at the table.

My favorite so far is Red Robin, whose nutrition guide isn’t a PDF document but a complete mobile app. In addition to finding the details on standard menu offerings, you can customize each item to your own specifications and review how your changes affect the nutrition. There’s a “bunless” option right on the menu, so the staff doesn’t look at you like you’re crazy for asking for a messy burger sans bread.

That said, I have the pleasure of living in the Portland area, known for its foodies, so many local restaurants also are highly accommodating of dietary needs. One pub in my hometown not only immediately accommodated the “bunless” option, but the waitress immediately knew to ask if I’d like to omit croutons on my salad and other sources of carbs in the meal.

Plan Ahead

I don’t particularly enjoy ordering like Meg Ryan’s character from When Harry Met Sally, so I try to look at menus well before we go out to decide just what I want to eat. This has a couple of benefits: One, I don’t take hours studying the menu at the table while everyone else is uber-hungry, and two, I don’t get tempted by treats at the last minute. If I plan what I’m going to eat a couple days ahead of time, I can enjoy the anticipation of a meal I don’t have to cook instead of getting caught up in wishing for what I can’t have.

Ask for a Box

At the Old Spaghetti Factory, there were no entrees on the menu that fell within my carb guidelines, but I chose a lower-carb option and planned to eat only half. I asked for my go-box right at the beginning of the meal and split the portion in half before I ever took a bite. That way, I couldn’t get carried away.

Plus, after several months of eating on a gestational diabetes meal plan, I’ve discovered my stomach just can’t handle as much food in a single sitting. A restaurant portion (which we all know is absurdly large) is way too much food. In fact, I wasn’t feeling so hot after eating half.

Watch the Little Bits

I eat salad at almost every meal these days, but restaurant salads can come with extra junk. Salad dressings aren’t usually too bad, in terms of carbs (and at this point, I’ve given up worrying too much about fat or calories, as I’m actually still losing weight inadvertently), but they can come with surprises. I always order my dressing on the side and dip my bites in it instead of spreading it over the top of the salad. I also order without the croutons, or at least pick them out. It may not seem like much bread, but at the OSF, salad with croutons was 13 grams of carbs and 5 carbs without. Sides and freebies are also problematic. The bread — oh the bread — is just a no-no. That highly processed white dinner roll at the restaurant is far more carbs than you might imagine … closer to an entire meal than a side dish.

Share

I’m lucky to have a husband who isn’t above letting me pick a bit off his plate. At Red Robin, I never get my own fries (don’t even look at the carbs … it will hurt to realize what you’ve been eating all these years), but I’m not above a bite or two from Hubby’s plate. Likewise, when dessert arrives, a single bite does usually hurt. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that you’ve had plenty to eat without stuffing yourself sick.

Commercial-Free Kid

The first lesson came from Jack in the Box.

On an extremely rare trip through the drive-through, Sweet Boy noticed the clown-like figure on a poster and asked who he was. Soon, he was noticing the same face on car antennae in local parking lots.

My explanation was blunt and honest: Jack in the Box is a restaurant. They use a clown in their ads to make kids think the food is yummy and fun, but it’s really just junk food that we eat every once in a while.

Only 3, he actually grasped the concept immediately — and repeats it every time we see a Jack in the Box image.

My husband and I both have college degrees in communications, so we like to think we’re pretty media savvy.

You won’t catch us tuning into the nightly news to learn about the latest “danger” to our family. (“Why your child is likely to be sucked into a black hole. Tonight at 11!)

I’m not going to fall for the cultural assertion that my kids are unsafe every moment they’re out of my line of sight. (For more on this, see one of my favorite blogs over at FreeRangeKids.com.)

I’m quite likely to critically pick apart (on a good day) or scream at (bad day) any marketing ploy designed to play on my emotions as a parent. (In my world, choosy moms don’t choose sugar-laden peanut butter by Jif, and, Lysol, spraying chemicals over every square inch of your house is not “healthing.”)

Still, it can be difficult to pass on that same savvy to a small child.

We’re lucky to be raising a child in an age of DVRs, YouTube and cable TV. Sweet Boy almost never sees ads on TV. He doesn’t know what the newest “must-have” toys are. His opinion of high-culture children’s programming includes classic Donald Duck and Chip N Dale cartoons. I don’t think he knows that sugary breakfast cereals exist, much less that they are associated with fun-loving cartoon characters.

But still, it’s impossible to avoid the onslaught entirely.

Recently, Sweet Boy and I were shopping in the rarely visited snack aisle when he noticed fruit snacks at his eye level.

“Are those Scooby snacks? They have Scooby Doo on them!”

Actually, I explained, those are just normal fruit snacks, but that company put Scooby Doo on the box to trick kids into thinking they’re special.

“Oh,” he said, without a hint of disappointment. “Like that clown at that restaurant.”

Exactly, smart kid.

Um, I Forgot

This is not the post I planned to write today.

Unfortunately, there’s no way I can focus enough to write on the topic I had planned.

Baby Brain has me completely defeated this week.

This is a real thing. I’m not 100 percent certain what causes it (I’m not a medical professional, after all, and even if I were, I wouldn’t be able to stand by my expertise in this condition anyway). I think it has to do with blood flow being diverted from the brain, both to supply the baby and because she and my uterus are teaming up to squish my blood vessels. Regardless, I’m enjoying frequent head rushes and a complete inability to remember the simplest things.

A few (somewhat embarrassing) examples:

* A few days ago, I ran outside to start my car and let it warm up before work. I came back inside and spent the next five minutes desperately searching for my keys — the ones I’d just put in the ignition.

* Today, I headed to the building next door to my office for a meeting. I was in the elevator before I realized I’d left the cookies for the holiday exchange in my office, so I ran back to get them. When I returned, I got back in the elevator, only to go to the wrong floor. After walking back downstairs to the meeting, I dropped off my stuff and promptly remembered that I’d needed to use the restroom for the past 15 minutes. So, I did my business and again headed into the meeting — only to realize that my BeBand was bunched around my waist under my dress. Back to the restroom, back to the meeting. Yes, people did watch me do this to-and-fro dance a half-dozen times. Yes, I did feel like an idiot.

* With the end of the meeting came the end of the work day. As I gathered my belongings to head home and started thinking about my family’s dinner, it occurred to me that I planned to heat up a freezer meal tonight. Only the meal is still frozen solid, in the freezer, because I completely forgot to thaw it this morning.

I know my brain is trying to function. This morning, when I woke up, I had this extreme desire to go back to bed, not because I was tired, but because I had been in the middle of the dream. Though I couldn’t remember any details of the dream, I knew it wasn’t finished and I really, really wanted to go back and see it to the end. I’m pretty sure that was my subconscious trying to get my thoughts in order … and again failing.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to get through three more months of this blatant idiocy … but I guess it doesn’t matter too much. By the time it’s over, I’ll probably have forgotten it ever happened.

Wombat in the Fridge

A few days ago, I opened my refrigerator and found a plastic bag marked “wombat” on the middle shelf.

Now, I live in the United States, and even if wombat was a local creature, it’s probably not one I’d prepare for dinner.

No, this is just an example of my husband’s sense of humor: I had roasted a turkey breast and left it to him to carve. He cut it up and labeled it for the fridge.

Other recent discoveries: dodo in the deep freeze and a “cat food” recipe in the mobile app he’s designing.

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I tend to be a little too serious. Oh, I have a sense of humor, but it tends toward the sarcastic or satirical. Slapstick and bathroom humor have never struck my funny bone.

But my husband can make me laugh like no one else — with the silliest and most inane jokes and actions. He has an amazing gift for turning mundane activities into games and finding fun in the simplest moments. It’s a huge part of what makes him such a wonderful father (he wears his Silly Dad label with pride), and what makes him such a perfect balance for me.

Sure, there are moments when “fun dad” needs to get a little serious. Just as there are moments when I forget to laugh at the puns and antics.

But for reasons that I can’t even explain, wombat in the fridge will get me every time.

Skip the Plan, Enjoy the Moment

Making the DIY Advent calendar for our family took some extreme advanced planning.

Using it, on the other hand, takes flexibility.

Earlier this week, our planned activity was to decorate the house windows with spray snow and holiday decals. But that was also the day that a package arrived in the mail: the Spider-Man UNO deck I had ordered in preparation for our holiday plane flight.

And Sweet Boy was all about it!

We started by removing the reverses, skips and wilds to play a simple game of taking turns and matching colors and numbers. He absolutely loved it and begged to play repeatedly. After Dad and I had let him win a couple times, Sweet Boy figured out how to let us win, by refusing to play his last card (which is pretty obvious when he can’t hold his cards in a nice, hidden fan yet).

“I want Daddy to win this time,” he’d say.

That’s about the point at which we stopped fixing the game and just playing.

Sweet Boy playing his first hand of UNO
Sweet Boy playing his first hand of UNO

Yesterday, Sweet Boy had his 4-year-old check-up at the doctor, complete with three shots (no tears, thank you very much my brave one!), followed by last night’s pre-planned Advent activity: Santa Claus pancakes (also a huge hit).

Santa pancakes
Santa pancakes

Then, it was time for some more UNO. We played a few hands as a family, then we added back in the “trick” cards, which he now thinks are the absolute best thing ever. (Skip Mommy’s turn, heck yeah!).

The window decorations totally haven’t happened — and who cares?

Our special family time this holiday season is coming to fruition better than I ever could have imagined.

5 Tips for Managing Gestational Diabetes in the Workplace

Food plays many roles in our society, but until my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I never realized just how much dietary restrictions can affect daily life. For many of us, food isn’t just about nutrition: It’s a coping mechanism, entertainment, socialization, even motivation.

And all that in the workplace alone!

Having a rough day? Here, eat some M&Ms.

Intense month for the department? The boss will provide a pizza lunch staff meeting.

New employee coming on board? Take her out to lunch.

Holidays approaching? Be sure to participate in the potluck, the cookie exchange, the department party and the institution party!

So how do you maintain a healthy diet and manage your gestational diabetes at work amid all the pressure to eat, and eat junk — preferably without being perceived as a whiner or pity case?

These are five strategies that have worked for me.

Be Upfront, But Be Brief

Health information is private, and your coworkers really don’t want to hear all the gory details of pregnancy side effects anyway. But sometimes a little sharing is in order. After my diagnosis, when coworkers would ask how I was feeling, I’d say, “Pretty good,” (even if that’s not 100 percent true), “but the gestational diabetes has been an adjustment.” Inevitably, the person will ask a couple questions and I’ll give them a quick and upbeat overview of what the disease means for my daily life, including pricking my finger multiple times a day and eating a careful diet on a strict schedule. They learn a bit and, more importantly, they are completely understanding when I need to munch on string cheese mid-meeting or when I decline an offered cookie.

Take Responsibility for Yourself

Recently, as a “reward,” my boss moved our bi-weekly staff meeting to the lunch hour and provided pizza for the whole team. It was a nice thought — and a dilemma at the same time. Pizza is something that my diabetes just can’t handle. I thought my options: I could complain that pizza isn’t very healthy. I could bring my own lunch to the meeting. I could ask for a special order. In the end, I wrote my boss a note and asked if she planned to order salad with the pizza. I said it was absolutely unnecessary if it wasn’t helpful for the group, but that I needed to plan ahead. She was more than willing to order a large salad with the pizza — and as it turned out, everyone had a serving (probably increasing everyone’s health for the day). I did bring a small container of peanuts and a yogurt to supplement the salad, but after two plates full, I had a great meal.

Be Prepared

I work in an open shared space. The office stock of M&Ms is in my direct line of sight, three steps from my desk, all day, every day. So I’ve had to learn to overcome temptation. And really, nothing has been so successful in teaching me willpower as my gestational diabetes. In the past, when I was trying to lose weight or make healthy choices, I have struggled to turn down the “occasional” goodies. Now, I just know I can’t have them. To make it easier to say no, I always have a plan for what I will eat in a day. My meals, as well as my snacks, are planned, prepared and packed, so that when I’m hungry, there’s a healthy choice in arm’s reach. And I really have only gone for the M&Ms once or twice during hypoglycemic moments.

Find an Alternative

When the invitation first came to exchange holiday cookies at our next staff meeting, I was a little upset. I love baking, I love sharing, I love cookies. Would I have to skip out this year? The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to participate, though. Thanks to Google, it is easier than ever to find ideas and recipes these days. Diabetes magazine has a great article full of low-carb cookie ideas that I will be trying out this weekend, for example. (I’ll let you know how it goes.) Some will stay home for my indulgence and others will join the cookie exchange. Some of my coworkers will walk away with healthier-than-expected treats, and I’ll probably come home with a few things I can’t eat. Lucky for my family, who will get to enjoy all those traditional baked goods I’m not making this year.

Bow Out If You Must

“In a world where people are convinced that butter, sugar and fat are detrimental to their health and scorn the presence of carbs, gluten and cholesterol, one office dares to break down the walls of culinary prejudice … Don’t let the so-called ‘doctors’ and their s-called ‘advice’ talk you into a so-called ‘healthy lifestyle.’” That was the actual language from the actual invitation to our offices pre-Thanksgiving potluck and, while I know it was mostly tongue-in-cheek, it also a sign that this event would not be fun for me. I really try to participate in office social activities — largely because my natural inclination is to shy away — but this is one I outright skipped. I waved to my coworkers as I walked by, and I ate a very healthy, but very carb-conscious turkey sandwich for lunch at home with my husband. No one was offended and, frankly, I felt better than any of my coworkers for the rest of the afternoon.

Stay Positive

Lest you think I’m an insufferable Pollyanna, I will admit, gestational diabetes can outright suck. When it does, I might scream into a pillow, whine to my husband or allow myself a quick and tearful pity party. But not at work. At work, I smile. I laugh about what a pain my dietary needs are. I say no thank you with grace. I celebrate the irony that a disease is actually making me healthier. And I focus on the fact that, in a few short months, I’ll have a beautiful reward in my baby girl.

 

Dear Santa

Sweet Boy and I wrote his letter to Santa last night. He dictated, with a bit of guidance, as I wrote. Then he drew a map to Grammy’s house, so that Santa could find us, and later he drew our Christmas tree. Apparently, the star has “Christmas power.” 

Just a green remote control car. Easy, kid!
Just a green remote control car. Easy, kid!
Over the river and through the woods? A map to Grammy's house
Over the river and through the woods? A map to Grammy’s house

Dear Santa,

Thank you for the racetrack and the cars. I like how fast they go!

I have been nice this year by doing what Mommy and Daddy say. I also do what they want me to do.

For Christmas, could you please bring me a green car with a remote control. Just a car with a remote control. That zooms really fast — faster than Lightning McQueen and strong as a marshmallow man.

We will be visiting Grammy Kathy for Christmas, so would you please bring my present to Wyoming? My stocking will be there, and I will leave you some yummy cookies — I won’t even eat them all! We’ll leave snacks for the reindeer, too!

Merry Christmas!

This was our Dec. 2 family Advent activity. Find the complete list in this post.

Holiday Gifts for Teachers: Cocoa Snowmen Jars & Footprint Reindeer Cards

Sweet Boy is in a new preschool this year, one with one teacher and two teacher assistants in his class, plus a school administrator who comes in regularly to provide music class. So when I started thinking about holiday gifts for his teachers, I wanted something cute, creative and fun — and also affordable and scale-able.

Cue Pinterest (as always).

COCOA SNOWMEN JARS

I loved the snowmen hot cocoa kits here and here, but while I found a few sites with photos, there weren’t many step-by-step instructions. I also wasn’t a fan of the felt hats, because I wasn’t sure how to make them look good — so, of course, I did my own thing.

Each snowman is made of a stack of three small jars. I ended up making four snowmen.

I started with a package of small Bell jars from Bi-Mart. They were cheaper than the decorative jars I could find elsewhere, but they did have the downside of two-piece lids. So, I started with what I’m sure is an extra step: hot gluing the lids to the lid rings. I’m not 100 percent sure this was necessary, but it seemed like a helpful step to ensure that the jars would be easy to open.

Next, I hot glued the lid of the bottom jar to the bottom of the middle jar, and the lid of the middle jar to the bottom of the top jar. You don’t want to glue the jars closed — you’re going to fill them — but you want the snowman to eventually stand up on its own.

131202_jars
Glue top of jar lid to bottom of next jar

Once the hot gluing was done, I brought Sweet Boy into the project to help. We filled the bottom of each jar with wrapped peppermint candies. The middle jar was filled with hot cocoa mix (I could have made my own, but again, simplicity: we did Swiss Miss from a can). Sweet Boy especially enjoyed this potentially messy part — have you ever noticed how powdered cocoa spreads everywhere — and I tried to mitigate the disaster with a funnel. Last, the top jar was filled with mini-marshmallows, which I put in a bowl and let Sweet Boy spoon into the jars, hoping to avoid him handling, or stealing, every one.

Sweet Boy, scooping cocoa too fast to capture
Sweet Boy, scooping cocoa too fast to capture

When the jars were filled, we assembled, and I used a paint pen to draw faces and buttons on the snowmen.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of the felt top hats, but I did see a picture where someone had put small stocking hats on each snowman. Super cute! I don’t crochet or knit, so I went online to figure out how to make mini-stocking caps without sewing. I found this tutorial (a little tricky to follow), which offered instructions on making tiny hats with a toilet paper roll base. I scaled it up by cutting strips of cardboard just long enough to wrap around my jar lids and stapling them into a circle. I also cut the red yarn a bit longer (it took some trial and error to find a length that worked), and spent about an hour making the hats in front of the TV). But they looked awesome when Sweet Boy pulled them onto the snowmen heads — and asked for a matching one for himself.

Do snowmen need to keep their heads warm?
Do snowmen need to keep their heads warm?

Finally, we finished the snowmen together by choosing some fabric scraps from my collection of leftovers and tying scarves onto the guys.

FOOTPRINT REINDEER CARDS

I wanted cards to accompany the gifts, and I also wanted something that Sweet Boy could make a little more independently. I didn’t find time at Halloween to make these monsters and ghosts, but then I saw footprint reindeer (like this and this) and couldn’t resist.

We set up in the kitchen, because that’s our only carpet-less room. I spread newspaper all over the floor, and poured washable paint onto some paper plates — brown for the bodies and green for the antlers.

Sweet Boy removed his socks and rolled his old pajama bottoms way up. We also made sure that we had the white cardstock we were using handy, plus lots of paper towels nearby for cleanup.

Then, he stamped one footprint on each page, followed by two handprints for antlers.

Reindeer bodies and antlers
Reindeer bodies and antlers
Gooey green hands
Gooey green hands

While this part dried, Sweet Boy got an early bath with Daddy.

Later, we came back with a little red paint to add thumbprint noses. Last, we drew in some eyes. We also considered gluing on some googly eyes, but we were out after making Halloween bats a couple months ago.

Rudolph, the Green-Antlered Reindeer
Rudolph, the Green-Antlered Reindeer

We’ll let the cards dry a night or two, then I’ll have Sweet Boy sign his name on the back for his teachers before giving both gifts later this month before school is out for the year.

This was our family Advent project for Dec. 1. Check out our other activities for the month in this post.