Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Toy Favorites!

*Hi Everyone! I took an unintentional blogging break this week, spending a lot of time with family and friends and enjoying every bit of this holiday season. I will return with my regular 3-4 posts a week in the New Year. For today, I've written a quick little post about my children's favorite gifts this Christmas!

I hope that all of you who celebrate had a very Merry Christmas! I know we did. Christmas morning was full of magic as the anticipation of the season finally culminated in Santa's arrival. Stephanie was thrilled as she ran into the living room and delighted in the stuffed stockings and piles of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree. She shrieked with excitement over each gift and took each one out to play with as she opened it.

Joseph was a little more subdued, often getting overwhelmed by his sister's enthusiasm. But he too enjoyed ripping off the wrapping paper and playing with his new toys. We spent the day in our own home, welcoming my parents, grandparents and sister in the afternoon for Christmas dinner.

It was a day full of good food, conversation, and holiday spirit.

As the kids have continued to play with their new toys these past few days, a few clear favorites have emerged.

Joseph is particularly enjoying his Fisher- Price Laugh and Learn: Learning Piggy Bank

And his Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Talkers Animal Sounds Zoo

(The zoo is actually a big hit with Stephanie too!)

Of the toys Stephanie received, her favorite by far is the Crayola Magnetic Double Easel

She's also loving Bell, the interactive storybook buddy, who is the companion to her beloved Jingle

Did your kids love their gifts? Did you? What were their (and your) favorites this year?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Stephanie and Joseph are full of anticipation and excitement today, as we scurry around getting last minute things done for our holiday celebration. Tonight we'll go to my parent's house to celebrate with extended family, and then tomorrow we're hosting dinner for my parents, grandparents, and sister.

I've crossed everything off my to-do list for today, which is both amazing and a little disconcerting. I'm racking my brain wondering what i'm forgetting, since it seems like there is no way I could have gotten it done this early. But, since I can't seem to think of anything i'm missing, i'm taking a minute to relax and check in with all of you!

Feel free to share your Christmas plans with me, i'd love to know what everyone is up to tonight and tomorrow. And for those of you travelling, I wish you a safe and secure trip. May you all find peace, joy and love this holiday season.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours! xoxo

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I can't seem to focus on anything lately. This school shooting has affected me in ways that most news events do not. I feel like i'm walking around in a fog and not really concentrating on anything, just going through the motions of my day. Today i'm making a conscious effort to get back to myself. I owe it to my own beautiful children to give them 100% of their mommy. I'm going to honor those 20 precious little babies by making each and every day with my children the best that it can be, and cherishing each moment that I get to spend with them.

It's quite fitting then that today is Thankful Thursday. What better way to refocus and remember my blessings than to write them down for all of you to read. So here it goes. Today (and every) day I am thankful for:

~My Children. This week, more than ever, i'm consciously grateful for their health and safety. I've found myself saying a little prayer of thanks every time that i'm able to hug them, kiss them, and play with them. Life is so short and I'm trying my best to let the little things go and with them. I'm letting the dishes linger longer in the sink so I can build a tower with Joseph or play dollhouse with Stephanie. I'm spending extra minutes cuddling with each of them before bed, and i'm setting the computer down whenever they are awake. They deserve 100% of my attention.

~Christmas. This Christmas season is not going to be a time of merriment for many families this year. But for my family it will be. We have so much to be thankful for, and my little ones don't know anything about the horror that many other people are facing. And for that, they deserve to have their sweet, innocent Christmas. They deserve to experience all the magic of the season, and I am determined to make it extra special for them.

~My husband. He has been working feverishly these past few weeks to finish the grad school class he's taking, as well as the regular end-of-the-year work that always keeps him busy in December. He's staying up late, putting in extra hours of work and yet still makes time for us. He still walks in the door and drops everything to play with the kids or help with dinner. He loves us and our family and I don't often remember to tell him how much we appreciate all that he does. But we do appreciate it, more than he will ever know.

~Friends. This past week has been full of the joy of friendship. I spent Friday night drinking wine and discussing the Newtown tragedy with Sarah and Melissa. I spent Sunday morning having coffee with 3 of my best friends who I have known for years. I spent Tuesday delivering food to a food bank and having (more) coffee with Melissa and Sarah. (Same Melissa as Friday, different Sarah.) And Tuesday afternoon Stephanie had a special Christmas gathering with her best friend and her cousin. (Whose mommies blog here and here.) What a joyous, social week it has been. I couldn't be more thankful for the love of these amazing friends, even if I tried.

~Stephanie's Teachers. It was not easy to drop her off at school on Tuesday. During the drive there I had clammy hands and a pounding heart. But I know she is in amazing, capable, and loving hands during her school hours. Her teachers are two of the sweetest women ever, and I know them both personally and professionally. I trust them with my child's life, and that's saying a lot. I am so, so thankful for them.

What are you thankful for this week? I'd love to hear from you :)

Thanks to Joanna for hosting Thankful Thursday!

Feel free to link up if you have your own Thankful Thursday post!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blogger Support For Sandy Hook

To the Blog World and Anyone Else who Wants to Help,

On Friday, tragedy struck so many of us in ways we did not foresee. An elementary school and small town in Connecticut were shattered by a mass shooting. We knew we wanted to help and we came up with this:

On Tuesday, December 18th, there will be a blogger day of silence. We will post the button and that's it. Please try to not post anything else that day if possible.

 We are also raising money that will go to an organization in the memory of this tragedy. The organization is called The Newtown Family Youth and Family Services. Here is the official description of the support service we are donating to:

"Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic and youth services bureau dedicated to helping children and families achieve their highest potential. NYFS provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area.


Please visit THIS PAGE to make your donation.

 We can't imagine how they must be feeling, especially this close to the holidays. We would love for you to spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let's make a difference and use blogging in a positive way. Thank you in advance for participating.

The Blog World

p.s. If you would like to, copy-paste and repost any part of this, please do. Share on.

*Thank you so much to Neely, Michelle and Meg for organizing this! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy In Connecticut

There are no words that I can write to express my horror at the school shooting that occurred this morning in Newtown Connecticut. So I won't even try. All I can say is that i'm heartbroken and sick at the thought of what happened to those children today. I'm sending all of my thoughts and prayers to the families affected by this senseless tragedy and hugging my children extra tight. Life is precious and can change in an instant. All we can do is

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Crafting

I love crafting with Stephanie, especially now that she's at an age where she really enjoys it. I had a bunch of ideas from Pinterest that I wrote about here, but I haven't actually done any of them with her yet. We have done some crafts though, and she's had so much fun making them.

So far we've done:

Door Hangings (Bought at Target for $1, markers included. Can't beat that.)

Foam Stockings (I found the stockings at the Dollar Store. They came in a package of 8. Foam stickers also came from the Dollar Store.)

Torn Paper Christmas Trees. (I cut out the Christmas tree shape, we tore up a piece of green paper, and Stephanie glued the pieces to the tree.)

We've also done a lot of coloring in Christmas coloring books, decorating cards and paper with Christmas stickers, and a few surprise projects that I don't want to write about yet because they will be Christmas gifts.

I've love to hear what holiday crafts you and your little ones have been up to, so please feel free to share!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Children's Books

Last month I wrote about our favorite Thanksgiving children's books, and today i'm excited to be doing the same thing with Christmas books!

We actually own a lot more Christmas books than we do Thanksgiving ones, which is nice because we can read them all season without having to return them to the library. There have been a few that we've borrowed from the library though, and some of them will eventually become part of our home collection since they are so well-loved!

Here are five of our favorites this year:

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This is one of our books, and even though I put it out after Thanksgiving I didn't expect to read it to her. It's a classic and beautifully illustrated but I assumed there were just too many words. That just goes to show that I shouldn't assume anything when it comes to my kids. This is Stephanie's absolute favorite Christmas book and we read it almost every day.

Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh. This is a cute little tale about a dog named Olive who hears her name on the radio and assumes it means Santa is calling her to come be his reindeer. (She misinterprets the song lyric "all of the other reindeer" as "Olive the other reindeer.") Santa takes pity on her and lets her join his team on Christmas night. I had watched the movie that's based on this book a long time ago, and I feel like the book is much cuter! Stephanie requests it often, and will be pretty disappointed when it has to go back to the library.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor. We adore Fancy Nancy, and this book about Nancy's extra fancy Christmas doesn't disappoint. Full of colorful pictures and "fancy" words, Nancy's Christmas book is one that we will definitely need to buy at some point.

The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear by Stan and Jan Berenstain. This is the original Berenstain Bears Christmas book (there have been other modern ones that have come out since.) I read this one growing up, and love sharing it with Stephanie now. In fact, the copy I'm reading to her is the one I owned when I was little. It tells the story of how Sister Bear writes a huge list to Santa, but eventually learns that it isn't good to be greedy, and that there is much more to Christmas than receiving gifts. Definitely a good one!

Franklin's Christmas Gift by Paulette Bourgeois. This is a sweet story about Franklin the turtle and his class's Christmas toy drive for needy children. When Franklin goes home to choose a toy, he discovers that all of his toys are too special for him to donate. But then at school the next day he hears about the generous donations his friends are making and feels like none of his toys are good enough to donate. He eventually figures out just the right toy to give and feels filled with the Christmas spirit. Franklin books are perfect for preschoolers. They are sweet and simple, with concepts that are easy for little ones to grasp. If you can get your hands on a copy of this (Franklin books are hard to find!) I highly recommend it.

Since I love children's literature, especially holiday-related books, I would love to hear some of your suggestions! Please share your favorites, either in the comments or on my Facebook page.

I shared my favorite Christmas books because that's the holiday we celebrate in our house. If you celebrate Hannukah or Kwanzaa, feel free to share any children's books about those holidays that you love too!

*I was not compensated in any way to write about these books. I either own them or have borrowed them from the library. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thankful Thursday, Christmas Edition: Week 2

Happy 2nd Thursday of the Christmas season! We had a bit of a rough week, but I still have so much to be thankful for.

This week my list includes:

~Our Christmas tree. I finally got my husband to put up the tree after days of nagging asking. I find myself getting frustrated whenever I see it standing there in my living room, waiting for him to put the lights on. I'm trying really really hard to focus on just being thankful that it's up and to remember that i'll be even more thankful for it once the lights and ornaments finally go on.

~Holiday birthdays. Both my niece and Dan celebrated a birthday this past week. Even though those days aren't necessarily related to Christmas, they always occur during the season, which gives them a little extra magic.

~Christmas movies. Stephanie was sick with a stomach bug all weekend and holiday movies were our saving grace. We watched Thomas' Christmas and the Elf on the Shelf movie over and over and over again while she rested on the couch.

~Wrapping gifts. I've been spending a little time each day getting this job done, and I love it! I brew a cup of Mocha Nescafe Memento, put Christmas carols on the radio and wrap. It's a peaceful activity, and i'm excited that I've already make a big dent in the amount I have to do.

~Holiday gatherings. We celebrated an early Christmas on Saturday with two of our best friends. It's a tough year for them (you might remember the story about how their beautiful daughter Maya died in June) and it was a bittersweet celebration. But we were happy to see them and spend quality time together.

Once again i'm linking up with Joanna at Baby Gators Den. I'd love to know what you're thankful for, so feel free to link up or comment! And check out the other great Thankful Thursday posts when you have time. Have a great week!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jingle All the Way

The beginning of December was a hectic time for us last year. Joseph was less than two months old, had a lot of stomach issues and didn't sleep well, and Stephanie was starting to develop a horrible tantrum habit. In the midst of planning for Christmas I was also thinking about my niece's birthday (December!), Dan's birthday (December 5th) and Joseph's Baptism, which ended up being the 4th as well.

I was tired, cranky, and overwhelmed by all of the events that were going on and with having two young ones under the age of two. But then, on the day of Joseph's Baptism, Dan's Grandma handed us her annual envelope for Elf Shopping (we shop for our kids, but the gifts come from her.) That year however, she also included a big gift bag.

When we got home from the Baptism party we opened the bag and discovered Jingle the Husky Pup. He was an adorable stuffed animal who came with his own book and DVD. I have to admit that my first thought was "Oh...another stuffed animal. Super." But I would soon find out that Jingle was no ordinary stuffed animal!

The very next day, as I struggled to get Joseph to eat (not an easy task) while simultaneously preparing to take both kids out to eat for Dan's birthday, Stephanie was being whiny and clingy. In an act of desperation I remembered that the stuffed animal came with a movie. I popped it in the DVD player, set her down in the living room and went about my tasks. I didn't have high expectations. At 21 months, she wasn't really into TV. But 20 minutes later I realized she hadn't moved the whole time the movie was on. (It's a short little show that was originally broadcast on the Hallmark channel.) I was amazed, and when she asked for it again I put it on and watched with her.

Jingle All The Way is a tale of a boy who wants a dog and a dog who wants a boy. Jingle and Andrew (the protagonist) overcome several obstacles to be together, and on Christmas morning their wishes come true. It's a heartwarming tale with a gentle Christmas music sound-track. The characters are sweet and the length is perfect for toddlers. When I finished watching it that first time I thought "This is going to be a new Christmas classic for us." And I was right.

From that moment on, Jingle became our stand-by. For the entire holiday season we watched the movie every single day. Sometimes more than once. It was my saving grace because I could actually feed the baby and get some holiday prep done. I didn't even mind when we watched it back-to-back. To back.

Stephanie also enjoyed the book (she was just starting to sit for stories.) I think the fact that Jingle responds to several key phrases helped keep her interested.

This year we were eager to pull Jingle out again, and again he has been a major part of our holiday season thus far. Many mornings we start our day by putting the movie on. Stephanie curls up on the couch with her Jingle puppy and watches the movie. Joseph loves it too, and will bark back to Jingle. We've read the book over and over and it is just as charming this year as it was last year.

Today marks 1 year of having Jingle in our lives, and I couldn't be more happy that he's here! I know he will be a part of our Christmas season for many more years to come.

Watching Jingle first thing in the morning

I was not compensated in any way to endorse Jingle. This post was written purely to share our love of Jingle with all of you!

*Are we friends on Facebook? If not, come like A Baby Makes Four

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Little Change of Plans

Well, I had grand plans for the blog on December. I was going to write every day, with a Christmas post related to our celebrations this season. But then poor Stephanie got sick with the stomach bug, so instead of blogging and celebrating I've been cleaning, disinfecting and cuddling with a poor sick little girl.

It started Friday afternoon when she woke up from her nap. She told me her belly hurt, and continued to say it consistently for the rest of the afternoon. Then she got sick at the dinner table, 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave the house to go out for a girls' night. (I told her she had good timing though, better then if I had just arrived and needed to turn around and go home.)

She spent the rest of the weekend alternating between seeming fine (we had company come over Saturday for a Christmas celebration and although she acted more subdued than normal you wouldn't know she had a stomach bug) and seeming very sick. Yesterday was the worst day, with her just lying on the couch dozing off and on all day. It was so sad to see.

The last time she got sick was at 12:30 this morning, and i'm crossing my fingers that that was the end of it! She seems better this morning and is asking to eat and leave the house so I'm taking that as a sign that she's on the road to recovery.

This is definitely a good lesson in need to be flexible because the only certainty with kids is that things are never certain. We're still doing our best to enjoy the Christmas season and I know we'll be back on track soon. In the meantime we've been watching lots of Christmas movies and reading Christmas books to hold onto some of our Christmas spirit. And as soon as she is 100% better I'll be back reporting on how we celebrate the holiday season all month long!

Joseph wants to know why his best friend won't play with him.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Christmas Edition Week 1

It's officially the first Thankful Thursday of the holiday season! This week i'm thankful for:

~Being done with my Christmas shopping! Last night's trip to finish up the kids was the last of it. I'm hoping that this means i'll really be able to relax and enjoy the rest of the season without the stress of shopping hanging over my head.

~Christmas decorations. I love that my house is decorated (except for the tree.) Whenever I come home it makes me happy to see the twinkling lights and whimsical knick-knacks scattered throughout our apartment. 

~Target. They have the best Christmas section, full of fun foods, gifts, movies, and household accessories to help brighten the season. 

~Christmas books. Stephanie and I snuggle up every night and read at least 3 Christmas books. She seems as enchanted with them as I am. (Be on the lookout for a list of our recommended children's Christmas books coming soon!)

~Christmas music. I love hearing it on the radio and listening to Stephanie sing along. We've been listening to it for so long now that she knows most of the songs!

~Mocha-mint coffee. Dunkin Donuts puts their bags of ground mocha-mint coffee out every year at Christmastime and I love it. It's just slightly minty and mocha-y, not too sweet and just...amazing. I always think I should stock up now for the rest of the year, but then I think part of why I love it so much is that it isn't available all year. 

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season so far! Let me know what you're thankful for, and link up if you have a Thankful Thursday post of your own.

*Thanks to Joanna from Baby Gators Den for hosting Thankful Thursday each week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Traditions: Toy Shopping Night

Tonight Dan and I are going Christmas shopping for our kids. This is one of my favorite nights of the year, and one I look forward to for a long time!

It's been our tradition for the past three years to pick one night after Thanksgiving and head out together. We ask my parents to watch the kids, do our shopping, and go out to dinner. We started it for Stephanie's first Christmas, when she was 9 months old. We went to Toys R' Us with no plan and a monetary amount that we agreed we would spend. We loaded up our shopping cart, and looking back it makes me laugh. All that for a 9 month old! But it wasn't only Stephanie's first Christmas, it was our first Christmas as parents. We spoiled her and had a blast doing it. After shopping for hours we went to a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a rare dinner out by ourselves.

Last year we did the same thing, but for both kids. We bought a little less because, in an effort to save money I had shopped early and gotten deals on some things. But we went together anyway, getting enough to reach our allotted amount of money for each child. (We also Elf-shop for Dan's Grandma. She gives us money and we pick out things for them, from her.)

This year is different. We're really budgeting and cutting back to save for a house, so I have done almost all of the shopping already. But Dan likes to be involved in the picking out of the toys, so I saved one present per child that he can choose tonight. He can also choose the Elf-shop toys. We're also going out to the same Mexican restaurant we always go to. Have to stick with tradition after all!

Christmas traditions like this fill me with so much joy and anticipation. It's fun to get a night out in the middle of all the holiday chaos, and I love that Dan wants to be involved in choosing gifts for our children. Also, lets face it-picking out toys for your kids is fun. There's nothing like wandering through a toy-store to bring you back to your own childhood for a few minutes.

How do you shop for your kids? Do you have a plan? Shop online? I love to hear the different ways people get their gifts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lets Talk About Hobbies

Today's Toddle Along Tuesday topic, over at Growing Up Geeky, is hobbies. I've started and stopped many hobbies along the years. Latch hooking, cross stitching  scrap-booking ..and the list goes on. But the one constant thing that I always make time for is reading.

I love to read, and I've loved it for as long as I can remember. I've always had at least one book that i'm in the middle of, and hate finishing it without knowing that I don't have another one right behind it. I read fast, and will go through 3-4 books a week, depending on the content. 

So many people have said "I don't know how you find the time to read with two little ones!" or "Wow, I'm way too busy to read." Which makes me chuckle because nobody would think twice if I said "I love to watch TV, and watch an hour of it at night before bed." Somehow TV watching is considered a given, but reading is something that only people with the luxury of time can afford to do. 

For me, there are very few shows that I would choose to watch over reading a book. (Parenthood and Revenge to name two.) I read every single day, even it's just a magazine. (I have a subscription to four of them, and read them cover-to-cover. I hate skimming through because I know I've paid for them...I want my money's worth! Hmm, reading that makes me sounds cheap. Oh well.) Sometimes I only make it through 10 or 15 minutes at night before my eyes close, but I always end a day knowing I've read something. 

As I kid I loved series books. BoxCar Children, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, etc. I have very fond memories of waiting eagerly for the next book in the series to come out and running to the local bookstore to buy it. I would then devour it in a day.

These days I prefer to read light books that don't require a lot of concentration. Romance, "Chick-Lit" (although I detest that phrase, I can't really think of another way to describe it) and light mysteries. I went through a Mary Higgins Clark phase at one point, but haven't read anything by her in a long, long time. I have dabbled with historical novels (Phillipa Gregory is good) and memoirs as well. 

The most recent books that I have read and enjoyed are Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio (one of those fly through it to see what happens books) The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman (a book that left me with an uncomfortable, "i'm not sure how to feel" feeling at the end, although it was very well written) and What the Nanny Saw by Fiona Nell. (A slightly humorous look at high society parenting in London.) 

Do you like to read? I'm always looking for good book recommendations so feel free to share. 

What other hobbies do you do? I'd love to hear about them! If you blog and have a hobby post, link up over at Melissa's site

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Crafting With Pinterest

Thanksgiving weekend is almost over, which means it's time to focus on Christmas! My mind is whirling in a million different directions, thinking of all the fun things I want to do to celebrate the season.

I have a lot of ideas and plans, and I can't wait to share them with you over the course of the month.

One of things I'm most excited about is Christmas crafting. I've taken a few trips to the craft stores and stocked up on Christmas stickers, foam shapes and wooden decorations to paint or color. I've also started pinning some craft ideas from Pinterest.

I am famous for pinning things and then never doing anything with them, so I'm making it my goal this holiday season to make at least three of the crafts that I have pinned to my Christmas board. Below are three of my favorites that I think I have a good chance of making with Stephanie!

What crafts do you have planned for this holiday season?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

This week's Thankful Thursday is special because it falls on Thanksgiving! I have so much in my life to be thankful for this year, and consider myself very, very blessed.

I am thankful for...

1. My husband. We have grown up together and built a beautiful life together and there is nobody else I'd rather go through this journey with.

2. My children. They are my life. My pride, my joy, my loves. I am amazed by them every, single day. They give my life purpose, and every day I fall more and more in love with them.

3. My parents. I am thankful that we live close to them and that they are a part of our everyday life. I'm thankful that they raised me the way they did and that they have set such a wonderful example of what a strong marriage is. I have such fond memories of my childhood and I hope that someday my kids feel the same way about me as I do about my parents. 

4. My sisters. They were my first best friends, and continue to be my best friends today. I don't know what I'd do without them. They know everything about me, and love me anyway. We have such fun times together, and always, always have each other's backs. 

5.. My niece. My sister's daughter is 10 weeks older than Stephanie. They are more like sisters than cousins (and fight like it!) but I love knowing that they will grow up together. I hope that they are as close to each other when they grow up as I am to my sisters.

6. My in-laws. Without them, I wouldn't have the life I do today. I am thankful that they raised my husband and for the love they have for us and our children.

7. My extended family. My brothers in laws, my aunts, uncles and cousins, and my nieces and nephews. We have such a strong support system, and I am thankful for each and every one of them. 

8. Best friends that are more like sisters. There's something amazing about having close friendships with other women. I'm blessed to have two best friends that I have known for years. We grew up together, we've laughed together and cried together. We are part of each other's families and I consider them my sisters. 

9. Friendships. I am so thankful for all of our friends. Knowing that there are people who would drop anything and be there for us (and vice versa) is an amazing feeling. 

10. Blogging. I have met so many wonderful people through this venue. I have friends, many of whom I've been lucky enough to meet in person. And if it wasn't for blogging I wouldn't have met my wonderful group of Rhody Bloggers. I can't even tell you how much that group of women means to me. 

11. Our home. Raising a family on a college campus isn't anyone's idea of an ideal living situation. But when I stop to think about it, it really is full of blessings. It's a roof over our heads, a community of people who love our children, a warm safe refuge from the elements, and it means that my husband has a job. A job that enables me to stay home and raise my children, which is something I've always known I was meant to do.

I could go on and on because my life is so full and i'm thankful for all of it. But instead I'll end here, and wish you, my readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all of you and appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. 

*Thank you to Joanna at Baby Gator's Den for hosting Thankful Thursday each week!

*I'd love to know what you are most thankful for this year. Link up if you've blogged about it, or just share in the comments!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Children's Books

We have been spending the whole month of November reading Thanksgiving books. We borrowed them from the library and have read each of them at least 5 times. (Stephanie is in a big reading phase right now. One morning we read every book in the library bag...that was 17 books.)

Here are some of our favorites for Thanksgiving:

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Dougherty

Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet by Jane O'Connor

Thank You For Thanksgiving by Julie Markes

Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson

These books are all the perfect length for 2, 3 and 4 year olds. They held Stephanie's attention, they talk about Thanksgiving and giving thanks in language that a little one can comprehend, and they are all very sweet.

(Sadly, one of the books I remember from growing up didn't go over well. A Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin was too lengthy and old for her this year.)

Have you read any books on Thanksgiving and giving thanks to your children? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Through "The Witching Hour"

Please tell me we aren't the only family who deals with "The Witching Hour." Don't know what i'm talking about? It's that time of day when your kids just won't stop. They are whiny, fussy, hungry, antsy and just under foot constantly. All while you're trying to set the table and cook dinner. It starts around 4:30 in our house and lasts through dinner, sometimes all the way to bedtime.

Luckily Stephanie is pretty much over this phase, so I'm just dealing with it from one child. But oh my goodness, this boy is giving me a run for my money. He flings himself to the ground when his whining and fussing don't lead to me picking him up, then cries hysterically. Then pulls on my leg (which is extra fun when i'm wearing my stay-at-home mom staple of yoga pants that are now a size too big because I've lost some weight. I love having my pants pulled down as i'm standing in front of a window that is right next to the entrance of our building...) He also gets under foot and i'm constantly tripping over him as I try to move between the stove and counter-top.

Anyway, after dealing with this night after night I realized I needed to figure out a way to deal with it. I was miserable and when Dan came home I was snappish at him, and it just wasn't a fun way to wind down the day. I developed a few tips and tricks that don't 100% solve the problem, but they help a little!

Prepare Ahead Of Time
I use my crock-pot as much as possible during the week. I also plan meals that I can prepare at nap-time and just throw in the oven when they need to start cooking. (Meatloaf, pot-pie, meatballs, etc.) I'll also make sauce while they're napping, and cut up vegetables and toss them back in the fridge until it's time to cook them. It's much easier to cook at night when the prep is done while the kids aren't around.

I always cringe a little at myself when I give my children snacks at 5:00. I know that every "expert" tells you it's a big no-no because it ruins their appetite for dinner. But you know what? My kids are awesome eaters, and if I give them healthy snacks, then I don't care too much if they are too full to eat a complete dinner. (We'll do fruits, veggies, black beans, etc.) And yes sometimes I throw some goldfish in a bowl too. Whatever works. It keeps them occupied long enough for me to get some cooking done. (Stephanie loves to feed Joseph...she operates under the "one for Joseph, 12 for me" philosophy.)

Again, I know this is frowned upon by so many, but on a really rough evening, that TV goes on. I pop in a DVD and Stephanie will watch while she plays. If it's Baby Einstein or Elmo, it will even capture Joseph's attention for 5 minutes or so. Enough of a distraction for him to forget for a few minutes that he was whining and fussing.

If I can get Joseph to stop whining and play with a toy, I can sneak back into the kitchen to keep working for a few minutes. It doesn't last long, since he's still young and has a short attention span, but at least it's something.

And? That's all I have. This time of day is just such so stressful for me. Although I've found that these four tactics have helped me cope, I still hate feeling so fed-up every evening. Please share some of your solutions for this (or any) time of day that you find to be a challenge with your little ones!

*I can't help but think that there is no sure-fire way to end the witching hour except for simply growing out of it. Thirteen months is a really tough age for kids to entertain themselves, and I do recognize that. But it's still frustrating!*

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's that time again...Thankful Thursday!

This week I have so much to be thankful for. I love taking a moment each week to really think about my puts things in perspective and reminds me of the many, many wonderful parts of my life!

This week i'm thankful for:

~Sleep. I feel saner, calmer, and more organized now that both kids sleep through the night almost every night!

~My parents, who invited the kids and I over for dinner on Monday. (Dan was out of town.) It meant a lot to have a night where, even though Dan wasn't home, I didn't have to do the night-time routine completely alone.

~Rhody Bloggers. I went to an event last night (hosted by the fabulous ladies of Rhody Mamas) and spent time with some of my Rhody Blogger friends. It was nice to get a rare night out and leave the kids at home!

~The holiday season. It makes me happy to hear the Christmas music in the stores and see all the decorations. I know people mutter and groan that it's too early...but I love it!

~An exciting upcoming blogger opportunity that I really can't wait to share with all of you in a few weeks.

~Stephanie's week at school. She had a great day both times she went this week. She's finally turning a corner and school mornings aren't the miserable nightmare that they were for a while!

I'd love to hear what you're thankful for this week! And link up if you're a blogger and wrote a Thankful Thursday post. As always, thank you to Joanna of Baby Gators Den for hosting. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless-ish Wednesday: 13 Month Edition

Yesterday my baby turned 13 months old. (I know, I know, most people stop keeping track of the months after 1 year, but after 12 months of acknowledging the 13th of every month it's hard to stop.)

I didn't remember to snap a picture of him until right after dinner. Afterwards I was looking at the picture and didn't really see any resemblance to Stephanie at that age. (I used to really think they looked alike, especially in  their six-month pictures.) The more I look at these pictures though, the more I see some similarities. What do you they look alike?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Don't Blink...

....or you just might miss something.

Sometimes I really feel that way. Like I blinked and my two little ones changed in an instant.

A few days ago I was watching old videos of Stephanie and feeling nostalgic. One of them wasn't that old, taken back in September. As in, two months ago. As I watched and listened to her talk, I realized she doesn't talk like that anymore. Her words are so much clearer and more articulate now.

It made me pause and think about some of the things my kids do and say right now that I take for granted. Things that I assume I will always remember, but know that I will likely forget. Things like:

~How Joseph will drop whatever he's doing and run to the window shouting "bye-bye" and waving frantically whenever a truck goes down the road.

~How Stephanie will sing "We are family. Mommy, Daddy, Stephanie and Joseph." Whenever we are all together.

~How Joseph will say "HI!!! DADA!" with so much excitement whenever Dan walks in the door or we wake him up in the morning.

~How Stephanie asks 1,000 questions every time we get in the car. (Where we going? What town we in? What town we going to? Where are all those cars going? etc. etc.)

~How Joseph runs after his sister in a desperate attempt to keep up, giggling and shrieking at her as if it's the most fun game in the world.

~How Stephanie says "fwished" instead of squished.

~How Joseph puts his two index fingers together as his version of the sign for "more."

~How Stephanie's pretend phone conversations always go the same way "Hi. It's Stephanie. Bye."

These are just a few examples. There a thousand others that happen all day long. They are the things that are so cute but when they stop happening you don't even realize it. Just like I have no idea when Stephanie started pronouncing her f's as f's instead of p's. (I loved when we would say prayers and she would say "Dear God, thank you por..." Now it's "Thank you for" clear as a bell.)

I love that I can use this blog as a way to remember these little parts of their childhood that might get lost as the years go on. What are some of those little things that your kids are doing now that you'd like to remember?

Today I'm linking up with my friend Debi over at The Truth About Motherhood. She's starting a new meme called Mommy Moment Mondays. She wants happy, positive stories of motherhood. So often it's easy to write about the negative things, the things you want to commiserate with other moms about. But on Mondays she wants to hear some of the MANY positive aspects of Motherhood. I loved thinking about the cute and adorable things my little ones are doing right now, and look forward to reading other women's positive Mommy Moments. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rhode Island Beach Memories

Happy Friday everyone!

Today, my friend Carla over at All of Me Now is hosting our weekly Rhody Blog Hop. Today's prompt:

"In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Rhody Bloggers are linking up honoring and celebrating the beautiful beaches of Rhode Island. We’re each sharing a cherished memory of an Ocean State beach. You’ll find links to a wonderful collection of beach memories at the end of this post"

I love Rhode Island. I always have, and always will. It's my home state, and the place I hope to stay forever. It has my heart, this tiny little state. 

I was blessed to grow up 5 minutes from the gorgeous beaches of Rhode Island. When I was a kid, I took it for granted that we could see the ocean whenever we wanted. I couldn't fathom that there were people who had never even seen it once. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the ocean. The local sea wall became the place I went to calm down, to seek refuge from any challenges I was facing in my life. The ocean was a balm, soothing my soul from any heartaches. 

When my children were born, I was eager to introduce them to the sea wall. I took Stephanie for walks in her stroller when she a tiny baby. My mommy friend (Stephanie's best friend's mommy) and I met along the wall once a week while she was on maternity leave so we could walk with our little ones.

When Joseph was born, it was close to winter and we didn't get to the wall until spring. But I loved introducing him to one my favorite places when we finally made it there. I spent this last summer walking the wall 3-4 times a week, trying to lose more of my baby weight. The kids loved watching the water, and I was thrilled to be instilling a love of the ocean in them at such a young age.

One of the landmarks along the Sea Wall is the Coast Guard House restaurant, which also holds a special place in my heart. Dan and I went to brunch there for our 2nd anniversary celebration, and for Father's Day when Stephanie was 1. I attended a baby shower there for a friend whose road to motherhood was paved with heartbreak and devastation. There are memories of that restaurant that I will hold in my heart forever.


Most recently we took Dan's family there for brunch when they were here from NY to celebrate Joseph's 1st birthday. Just two short weeks later, the restaurant looked like this:

Photo courtesy of the South County Independent

Photo courtesy of the South County Independent
Parts of my beloved sea wall collapsed as well.
Photo courtesy of the South County Independent

It is very sad to see these pictures, but I know that our state will rebuild. We will come out of this stronger than ever. I for one am thankful that it wasn't worse...because it definitely could have been. There are others along the East Coast who suffered much greater devastation, and my heart goes out to them as well.

Hurricane Sandy did a number to Rhode Island's beautiful beaches. It also affected many, many families in our little state, who are still suffering the after effects of the devastation. If you want to help, click here to connect with Serve Rhode Island, which is coordinating efforts to help families affected by Sandy. (Thanks to Carla for sharing that information with everyone!) 

You can read other stories of Rhode Island beach memories in the link section below, and if you have a post to link up, I'd love to read it!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday!

Happy Thursday! I have a lot to be thankful for every day, but I always love the opportunity to write down things that I'm feeling especially thankful for each week. This week I'm thankful for:

~My wonderful husband. Today is our 4th wedding anniversary and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for putting this man in my life. We have grown up together, built a life together, and brought two beautiful children into this world together. 

~Friends who are willing to watch my children for me so I can surprise Dan with an anniversary dinner out, just the two of us.

~My mom, who was willing to watch the kids for me last minute while I attended a pre-opening event for the new Nordstrom Rack at my local mall. (I didn't end up going because of the Noreaster that hit us, but I'm still thankful that she was willing!) 

~Being able to cuddle with my kids in our warm apartment while the snow fell outside and the wind howled and shook the building.

~That election season is over. So much nastiness comes out during these politically heated times, and it is quite disheartening to see people attack one another because they support one or the other candidate. 

~The right to vote. So many people worked hard for me to have this right, and I don't take it for granted.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Feel free to share the things you're thankful for in the comment section. If you blog and wrote your own Thankful Thursday post, i'd love for you to link up! As always, a huge thank you to Joanna over at Baby Gators Den who hosts Thankful Thursday each week. It's one of my favorite posts to write.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Countdown

On November 1st I wrote a Facebook status announcing my excitement that the holiday season was here. It's my all time favorite time of year.

In the past people have scoffed at my excitement and rolled their eyes at me, claiming i'm "forgetting all about Thanksgiving." This year I wrote a disclaimer in my status, stating that I wasn't forgetting's part of the holiday season!

And it really is. I adore Thanksgiving just as much as I adore Christmas. I love the traditions, the food, the excitement that's in the air when we wake up in the morning. I love the football games and the parades, the family time and the "official" start of Christmas shopping. (Well, for most people. I try to be done by Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving also means I get to decorate for Christmas. I would love to decorate the week before Thanksgiving (My friend Melissa from Growing up Geeky has decorated her house already! I have to say i'm jealous.) but my husband would have a fit. So I resign myself to waiting for the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Stephanie is already excited for Christmas. She talks about Christmas morning, about visiting Santa at the mall, about watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas books, listening to Christmas music and writing her Santa list. While I love her excitement, I also want to make sure she doesn't forget about Thanksgiving, so we've been talking about it a lot.

We borrowed a ton of books about Thanksgiving from the library and have been reading them every day. We talk about things we are thankful for and how Thanksgiving is a day set aside to reflect on all of our blessings. We talk about the trip we're going to take to NY that day, and the yummy food we're going to eat while we're there.

All this chatter has led her to ask, every morning since Halloween, if it's Thanksgiving yet. Yesterday I must have said "not yet" at least 25 times. Before 7am. Finally I decided that she needed a visual to see exactly when it would be Thanksgiving. Our traditional family calendar is high up on a wall, and isn't the easiest thing for a 2 year old to understand, so I made my own. Here is "Stephanie's Thanksgiving Countdown"

Every day from now until Thanksgiving she can put a sticker in that day's box. Once she puts her sticker on, we count how many days are left. She decorated it with crayons, and was jumping out of her pants excited to show "MY Thanksgiving calendar" to Dan when he got home from work. It was such a simple thing to make, but she is filled with pride over having her very own countdown. (She still asked me about 15 times today if it was Thanksgiving yet. So it didn't entirely fulfill it's purpose. But it's still fun.)

Are your kids excited about Thanksgiving? What kinds of things are you doing together in anticipation of the day? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning: November

At the end of September I wrote about how I'm meal planning on a monthly basis now, to save money, save time, and be healthier.

I'm on my third month of meal planning this way, and November was definitely the easiest. I started the process half-way through October and it felt more organized and stream-lined. It's still a lengthy process, but I think it will continue to get easier each month.

Here are the steps involved in my Monthly Meal Planning Process:

1. Enter meals into my calendar.

2. Go through meal-by-meal and make a list of all the ingredients I need for each meal. (This will turn into the master grocery list.)

3. Write down things we need for breakfasts and lunches (I only meal plan for dinner)

3. Cross-check the grocery list with what I already have in the cupboard and freezer.

4.  Go through my coupons and pull out any that correspond to items on my list.

5. Organize the list based on what I'll by at each store. (Since i'm on my third month, I have a general idea of which store offers the best prices for different things.)

6. Spend one day going to three different stores and buy everything that is either non-perishable, can be stored in the freezer or will last the entire month. (I highly recommend doing this without children in tow! I've convinced Dan to take one Thursday morning off each month. I drop Stephanie at school and spend the entire 2.5 hours getting our shopping done.)

I now have all of our food for the month, except for fresh fruits/veggies, yogurt and milk. I'll be buying those things on a weekly basis, and am hoping to keep those weekly trips to $25 or less.

And now the good part:

November Meal Plan

1. Meatloaf, baked sweet potatoes and peas.
2. Crock-Pot Sausage and Peppers over egg noodles
3. Eating out
4. Homemade calzones
5. Leftovers from the past 4 meals
6. Barbeque Chicken
7. Pasta & Homemade Sauce
8. Tuna sandwiches, pickles and celery sticks
9. Tacos
10. Ham, baked beans, greenbeans, cranberry sauce
11. Leftovers
12. Chicken Pot-Pie
13. Macaroni & Cheese, carrot sticks
14. Crock-Pot Hawaiian Barbeque Chicken, rice, broccoli
15. Soup & crescent rolls
16. Rotisserie Chicken, cranberry sauce, green beans, stuffing (I didn't realize how chicken-filled this week was until just now. Oops!)
17. Pasta and Sauce
18. Crock-Pot Beef & Broccoli
19. Breaded Pork Chops, applesauce, corn
20. Waffles & fruit
21. Leftovers
22. Thanksgiving (We'll be in NY with Dan's family)
23. New York
24. New York
25. English Muffin Pizzas
26. Chili
27. Macaroni & Cheese (Dan isn't home on Tuesday nights, hence the "kid food" you'll notice each week.)
28. Chicken Pot Pie
29. Crock-Pot tortellini stew
30. Lemon Pepper Pork

*Let me know if there's any meals you're interested in seeing recipes for! And if you have any simple, easy meals you'd like to share, I'll be thinking about December before you know it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kids Art Activities: Toddler Style!

Thanks to the stormy weather, we've had a lot of indoor time lately.

We are typically on the go constantly, so I do love those rare home days where we have no plans and can just hang around the house. But when we're forced to stay home, I find myself climbing the walls by 9 am. To try and keep some sanity, I always have an arsenal of art activities that I can pull out for Stephanie when the boredom hits.

These things are perfect for two year olds. Pinterest is loaded with fun crafts to do with kids but a lot of them are just too complicated for her age group or are things that I need to help her with. And while those types of activities are wonderful and  can be very fun, our reality is that i'm often busy chasing after Joseph while Stephanie is trying to do art. Therefore, I need to have things available that she can do all by herself.

I've put together a box of supplies that I have readily available to pull out at a moments notice. And Stephanie has access to it, so she can get to work on an art project whenever the mood strikes.

The things I keep in the box include:

~Construction paper

~Glitter Glue




~Glue sticks

~Torn paper (I take the leftover pieces of paper from projects and tear them into pieces. Hand Stephanie a bowl of them, along with a glue stick and a big piece of paper and she will make a masterpiece. We call it Torn Paper Art and it keeps her busy for a long time!) *Letting your child tear the paper him or herself can be a fun project too!

~Coloring Books

~Paintbrushes (she uses them with her glitter glue. After she squeezes globs of it onto her paper, she uses the paintbrush to swirl it around.)

~Foam shapes (she decorates them with stickers and markers. Craft stores have seasonal ones. Right now we have pumpkins, ghosts, witches hats, etc.)

~Toy catalogs and pens (she circles things that she wants to ask Santa for. That's the idea anyway. She tends to just circle everything, but she has a blast doing it!)

I find it best to pull out one or two things at a time for Stephanie to work on. If she is presented with the whole box at once she can get overwhelmed. But it's nice to have everything together and ready whenever we need something to do to help cure our "stuck in the house" blues.

Over the next several months, as Stephanie gets a little older, i'll be ready to leave her alone with things like elmers glue, pom-poms, googly eyes, etc. I'll be looking for ideas for new things, so I'd love to hear what art supplies you keep on hand for your little ones!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Hurricane Edition

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I have so much to be thankful for. There are so many people suffering from the devastating effects of this storm and my heart breaks for them when I see the footage on TV. It truly does make me feel blessed and grateful for the safety of my loved ones and friends. So for this week, I am thankful for:

~Not losing electricity

~Being able to have my parents over for a hot meal and shower, since they are still without power. *I was just notified by my mom that when they arrived home from dinner at our house, their power was back. Hooray!*

~My husbands job. He had to work during the hurricane, but since he works on the college campus where we live, he didn't have to drive through the storm. Thank goodness!

~Facebook. I was able to keep tabs on all of our friends and family and see how everyone was weathering the storm. It was good for peace of mind to know that loved ones were safe and sound.

~The fact that we suffered no damage to our apartment. Other buildings on campus and throughout the state were hit by trees, but we were blessed not to have that happen to us.

~The fact that everyone we know and love is safe. That is the most important thing. A few days of no power, even damage to homes and vehicles....nothing matters more than the fact that those we love are alive and unharmed. I've been saying extra prayers of thanks for that, and today, on Thankful Thursday, i'm happy to take a few extra minutes to remember what really matters.

*I hope you will join me in sending prayers and good thoughts to all those that didn't fare as well during this storm. So many towns are under water, so many homes caught fire, and so many lost everything, and it's important not to forget about them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this holiday feels more subdued than usual. But I'm still excited to take my kiddos out Trick-or-Treating and let them experience all the joys that come along with this special day. They are what it's all about and I love seeing their little faces light up on special, treat-filled days. Their excitement is contagious and I love being able to experience holidays with them. Stephanie is at a fun age, and understands what Trick-or-Treating means and that she will knock on people's doors and they will give her candy. We've been practicing saying "Trick-or-Treat" and then saying "thank you." She's so excited that she's been asking whether it's time to go since she woke up this morning!

(Of course, the whole day seems special and magical right now, before the candy-fueled, off-the wall bouncing around sets in. And before the post-sugar temper tantrums. But right now I can pretend that this year those things won't happen. Nobody burst my bubble...)

I hope everyone stays safe and takes precautions, especially if you go out in areas that have suffered downed trees and power lines!

Cinderella and the cutest little Pumpkin say HAPPY HALLOWEEN to all my wonderful A Baby Makes Four readers.

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