Merry Christmas 2014

B is off work this week and we’re enjoying lots of family time, so just dropping in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy, healthy and safe holidays. Peace, in particular, is on my mind this Christmas season. Wishing you sweet moments with your families, loved ones and friends.

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My Favorite Sleepsack: Merino Kids Review

Peter is 9 months old. Where does the time go? I’m registering my oldest for Kindergarten and mentally preparing for my baby to be 1?! Crazy. He’s had a huge growth month. He’s crawling (which would make him our first kid to crawl), sitting up, pulling up to stand, and standing independently for a few seconds at a time.

These milestones have also wreaked havoc on his sleep. And he wasn’t the best sleeper to begin with. The biggest issue we’ve had is that he rolls over and sits and then isn’t willing to lay himself back down. But, I’ve recently been putting him in the awesome sleepsack by Merino Kids and it has helped his sleep a ton, and seems to keep him from sitting himself up. If I had known about these when Thomas was at this stage, I would have never had to buy another sleepsack again. And good news! Merino Kids is offering imperfect readers $20 off their cute polka dot sleepsacks!

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Babies 101: Just Ask Children’s

Babies. So sweet and snuggly. But there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to a new baby. And honestly? Three kids into this parenting gig, and I can tell you with confidence that each baby comes with their own unique learning curve for the parents. There were so many things that I couldn’t have prepared myself for, but somehow, through the magic of motherhood, you figure it out, and it doesn’t take long.

I remember shortly after Thomas was born, once we’d figured out breastfeeding (no small feat), I took him to the grocery store with me. And as I pushed the cart back to the car I realized that I would never again be able to load my groceries into the car and run the cart back to the cart return and then hop in the car and drive away. Now I had a baby who I couldn’t let out of my sight. Now I had to figure out this balancing act of loading the groceries, while keeping my hand on the car seat, then one handed carry the car seat while pushing the cart to the cart return, then lug that heavy car seat back to the car, lock it into its base…you get the idea. It seems silly, but it’s a good example of the learning curve of a new mom. {Side note: I will park as far out in a parking lot as I have to to park directly next to a cart return now. And when I can’t find a spot near the cart return, I just return the cart to a safe spot next to my car, and vow that when I don’t have my children with me, I will always return the cart}.

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Embracing Renewable Energy: Getting Family Involved

Recently, B and I have been talking a lot about how we can teach our kids responsibility. And not just how to keep track of their own things (though I’m still hunting for a pair of Keens of T’s that went missing this summer!), but about our responsibility to take care of others in our community and of our natural resources. This time of year is such an amazing one to teach kids about giving – we had Thomas go through all of his toys the day after Thanksgiving and pack up toys he doesn’t play with anymore to donate to children who might not otherwise have gifts at Christmas. We’ll involve the kids in making dinner that we’ll drop off at a homeless youth shelter in Boulder for Christmas. But I also think it’s so important to teach our kids about their responsibility to Earth and our natural resources, too.

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Our House at Christmas: 2014

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve had a lot of fun getting our house ready for Christmas this year. Last year was moving year. The tree and ornaments and stockings came out of storage, and I did put garland on the mantle, but that was about it. I didn’t have a feel for the house yet without buying all new things – and going out and buying all new isn’t really my budget-minded style. Last year our Christmas decor splurge was exterior lights that worked with our new roofline. This year, we were going to buy a new tree, but as Thanksgiving rolled around and neither B nor I had actively searched for a good fake tree (we both love real trees but we’re both allergic to pine trees, so we go fake for the sake of not having hives and itchy eyes all season long), we laughed when I said, “We’re not getting a new tree this year, are we?” and B said, “I’m pretty sure the kids are going to to want to put the tree up this weekend, so probably not, unless you want to try a real tree? We SHOULD look for one after Christmas and get a deal…but…” and I finished his sentence, “…but we won’t, because after Christmas we the last thing we want to do is spend more money. Especially on stuff we can’t use for another year.” And B said, “Exactly.”  Our tree has been around for 7 years, and we bought it on clearance as a floor model back then. It has lots of holes in it, and it’s a little bit short, and the top branch doesn’t hold a tree topper straight. But the kids don’t care. And someday we’ll replace it, but for now, we’ll just make it work.

Living Room Tree

Back in 2007, I had a cute tree skirt made with our soon-to-be last name that matched our stockings. It was cranberry red. If you’re just joining us, I discovered a lot about myself after we bought our first house. The number one thing I discovered? I love red in other peoples homes, it feels homey and cozy and warm. But it isn’t me. I like cool tones. So I felt like our stockings and tree skirt always pigeon holed me into sticking to dark red and green Christmas colors. And I didn’t love it. I have been eying a galvanized bucket for a tree stand for three years – ever since I saw one on Terrain’s website in 2012. Last year I found one and they all sold out before I placed my order, so when I saw it back in stock this year, I ordered it immediately. And it has been sitting in our Dining Room since September 15th. When we pulled the tree out of the crawl space last Saturday, I was so glad I’d bought the tree collar. It’s way more us.

Rustic Modern Christmas

I have always loved the look of garland on the stairs, and now we live in a house that was made for Christmas garland. And that makes me happy. I love that from our kitchen table, you can see lights in every room – the kitchen, the family room, the living room, the upstairs hallway. We still have the traditional red and green stockings. I was going to buy us all new white ones (I always said when our family was complete, I’d buy all new stockings), but the practical side of me intervened. Also, Thomas told me he loves his stocking. So they stayed for this year.

Family Room

In the spirit of updating what we have without spending much, I focused on the finishing touches. I’ve also always had red and green and gold plaid ribbon on our tree and outdoor wreaths because it’s what my mom always put on her tree and wreaths. And it works for Caroline, but I realized very quickly that while my mom and I have similar overall taste, we have different styles. Does that make sense? So, finally this year, I bought some burlap ribbon. Burlap and galvanized metal. It’s beginning to look a lot like a B and Emily Christmas. About time. :)

Christmas Decor 2014 There are other little things here and there: our advent wreath in the kitchen that the kids and I made at church one snowy Tuesday night while B was traveling, and our activity Advent calendar that our friends gave us a few years ago.  Our Little People Nativity sits on the console table under our gallery wall, but is usually strewn about the family room floor. And that’s our house at Christmas this year.

Simple Christmas Card Display

simple christmas card display

I love Christmas cards. I love sending them. I love receiving them. I love displaying them. I will never forget the year Thomas was born and there seemed to be a shift against sending Christmas cards – pictures were already on Facebook anyway. And I remember, in a very Emily fashion, making a proclamation that I will always send Christmas cards – and I will never post the Christmas card picture to social media before our cards are out. But, with all of my cards addressed and stamped (and hopefully making their way to the post office today), I figure I can share it on the blog now. This year I picked this colorful “Definitely Merry” card from Tiny Prints – I love the twist on traditional Christmas colors and the theme just seemed perfect for this very merry year. Nothing merrier than welcoming a sweet baby into the family!

  christmas card 2014

In the past, I’ve always clipped the Christmas cards that come in throughout December to a piece of upholstery webbing hanging from our coat closet door. But last January, we hung the antique window that I found at a junk store in the cutout/niche between our living room and back hallway (you can read more about the hunt for the window here). And as soon as that window was up, I knew that’s where we’d hang our Christmas cards.

 

  window for christmas card display

 This was so easy. I just grabbed some twine intended for wrapping gifts when I found it this Fall. Last week, I strung four rows of the twine horizontally across my beloved antique window and used some heavy duty tape to keep them in place. I draped a paper circle garland across the top of the window, and as cards come in, I clip them up on the twine. It will get more and more crowded as the month goes on – and I can easily add more rows of twine if I need them.

Christmas Cards on old window

I love two things about this setup. In our home, this window is the first thing you see as you walk through our front door. It looks cool on its own, but when it’s decorated, it definitely draws your eye to the window, so a prominent display for our friends’ and family’s holiday cards is perfect. Also, when I’m walking down our back hallway, I can see the pretty backs of the cards through the window. When I was selecting our card for this year, I definitely paid attention to the backs of the cards. The card I chose has fun typography on the back, and some of the ones we’ve received have cute stripes and polka dots.

 

So that’s our Christmas Card display for this year. It makes me happy. Last year, we had just moved into our home 6 months before Christmas (and I was 6 months pregnant with Peter) and I didn’t really have a feel for Christmas decor in our new home. But as we’ve made this house more “ours” throughout the last year and a half, it’s been even more fun to decorate for the holidays. So, more Christmas decor coming tomorrow!

Stress-less Christmas: Have a Plan to Avoid Panic Shopping

Every year, I have a goal to have the majority of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Or at least to have a plan for my shopping before Thanksgiving. There are certain things that I know I’ll hold off on until I’ve checked Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but I always feel better if I have a plan. But somehow, ever December, I suffer from “We might not have enough-itis” and throw random budget breakers in my cart in fear of forgetting something. The things that usually get me? Stocking stuffers and last minute gifts for friends and neighbors.

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Toy Recommendations

It’s that time of year! I have from time to time done round-ups of the kids favorite toys at any given stage. I’ll do a round-up as soon as they finish their Christmas lists of what we’re thinking for Christmas this year, but I thought I’d share our past favorites in one post for anyone who needs ideas!

 

Our Favorite Games

Christmas Ideas for a 6 Month Old

 

Favorite Toys for 1 Year Olds

Favorite Toys for Toddlers: 12- 18 Month Old

Favorite Toys for 18-24 Month Old Boys

Favorite Toys for 2 – 3 Year Olds

More Favorite Toys for 2 Year Olds

Christmas Ideas for a 2 1/2 Year Old Boy

Favorite Toys for 3 Year Old Boys

Favorite Toys for 4 Year Old Boys

Updates

- Last week we had a bitter cold snap. It was frigid.  I tried to snap a Christmas card picture of the kids in the snow:

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It didn’t go so well. We’ll be trying again…or just using the pictures we had taken at the beach this summer.

- But we did get a lot of snow play in when the kids were dressed appropriately. Last year I was pregnant with Peter and didn’t have a warm winter coat that fit, so I was kind of a dud of a mom when it came to snow play, so B had to pick up all of my slack. This year, we have Peter and he’s too young to be out in the frigid cold, so we made sure to take advantage of his morning naptime for shoveling and snow play.

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- Speaking of snow play, Costco snow gear for the win. The kids coats (Nell’s from last year and T’s is this year) were both under $30 (I think T’s was $29 and Nell’s was $23). Yes, every kid you pass has the same coat, but it’s a coat. And they grow out of them. Also, those Head brand ski mittens with the zippers that Costco sold last year? Best invention ever. I haven’t seen them this year, but I’m on the lookout to buy the next sizes. If you run across them, buy them for your kids: They are warm and the zipper makes getting mittens on kids so much easier.

- I was taken down by some kind of stomach bug this week and it was miserable. It came on slowly Monday and Tuesday and then knocked me out all day Wednesday and Thursday, but I’m feeling better now and hoping the rest of our family stays healthy.  Nell was acting a little rough on Wednesday, too, but she snapped out of it quickly. So, fingers crossed ***

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- Thomas and Nell decided that Nell was ready to “potty train” this week. B was out of town for work, I was knocked out by the previously mentioned stomach bug, and so Thomas took the lead on that, and she did fine. With that said, now that I’m back amongst the living and have taken control of the house back from the 4 year old, we’re not officially potty training her yet — I’m a big believer in potty training later rather than potty training for a year (which is what I believe potty training too early leads to) – Thomas was 2 years 10 months when I potty trained him in one afternoon and he never had an accident (and also has a totally different {perfectionist} personality than his sister, I realize), so that’s my preferred method. I’ll keep you posted on if my preference wins out. I’ve realized in parenting that it rarely does…

And that’s where we’re at! I’m gearing up for Christmas, B and I are both strict about “No Christmas before Thanksgiving” over here. Yesterday I turned on the Yule Log on Comcast just to show the kids because they’ve been singing the carols that Thomas’s class is practicing for his Christmas program and Thomas said, “Mom, it’s not Christmas yet!” Touche, kid. Touche. Thanks for keeping me honest, Thomas.

 

 

Tailgate at Your Place: Sweet Potato Tater Tots

I’m excited to share a fun, healthier recipe as part of Red Baron’s Homegating campaign. Every year when football season rolls around, we look forward to both college and NFL game days. But with three small kids, actually getting to the stadium for a tailgate before a big game is not easy anymore. So, instead, we tailgate at home – and so I was so excited when Red Baron asked me to participate in their Tailgate at Your Place sweepstakes campaign. We tailgate at home every weekend – whether we are inviting neighbors and friends over for finger foods and pizza or chili to watch the game with us, or just hanging out together as a family, we love to celebrate football season with good food while we tailgate at home.

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