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!

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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.

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