Our Christmas 2014

Our tree is still up because it just seems too early to take it down (and I really hate that chore!)  Our 24 hours of Christmas was a whirlwind with ups and downs, but I already miss it and can't wait for it to come again.

We started with Christmas Eve at Uncle Eric and Aunt Shannon's, playing with Jaxsen and grandpa and opening tons of presents from Grandma.







It was a rough night after that!  It was hard for them to settle down and Larkyn was devastated that she couldn't play with her new toys all night. Next year, no toys on Christmas Eve! After lots of tears and reminders about Santa coming the next morning, we finally got her to bed and could begin our preparation...

 She loves her dollhouse! Yippee!

 My favorite part, the stockings. From nana:)

 Peppa Pig always makes her smile

 He just smiled and played with whatever he found on the floor.

 She opened daddy's presents too. "They're heavy, daddy!"

I think this was the first year that Larkyn actually understood and enjoyed all this. She couldn't wait to open each gift and wanted to help everyone else open theirs.


Rhys was just along for the ride, mostly playing with boxes, paper, and toys from the dollar bin at Target. Naturally.


We always have monkey bread on Christmas morning. We kind of eat it all day long...


A few hours later, my parents came. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures because we were exhausted. And a few hours after that, my Mother in Law came and brought us dinner. It was a long, but happy day. I will fully admit to having some Clark Griswald feelings as usual, because I want the day to be perfect and for everyone to be happy. Between the mess, cranky kids who are overstimulated, and hearing "I'm so glad it's over", I got a little upset. Adjusting to Christmas with kids is not all sugarplums and glitter. It is an adjustment, and I am adjusting to the imperfections. It is much more fulfilling and meaningful, and I try my best to make it a happy time for everyone.


I loved seeing my two kids have fun with their new toys and with their family, and I know it will be even more fun next year!

Christmas around our house

As much as I love to go out and do fun things, I recently figured out why I really don't mind winter as much as I thought I did. The less than lovely weather is the perfect excuse to stay inside and make your house a cozy little place to spend time together. It is easy to go nuts decorating for the holidays, but toddlers and crawling babies have a way of dismantling decorations.

This year has been hard/amazing for all of us, so the only way to keep the holidays from losing their sparkle and becoming a chore is to simplify.

Our home...
 My goal with our winter mantle was to spend zero dollars and reuse things from around the house. While my mom is working on our handmade stockings, she gave us this little mitten garland that I LOVE!

 Cardboard cone trees, one wrapped with twine and the other painted gray and sprinkled with pearls

 These little Pottery Barn stars needed a home, and I painted the last canvas from the pack we used for our handprint art

 Our cards do not have a home yet. One day I will figure out how to display them. And the gingerbread house is being slowly consumed by a certain toddler...

 I always wanted two matching ornaments on my tree

 AND I'm a big believer in homemade ornaments being in plain view

 Just relaxing...her favorite activity. It could include the iPad, a movie, or a book...

One day I will have trees in urns and wreaths with white lights, but this year, this little guy will do just fine;)

Simplicity is a good thing.

A very Preschool Christmas

Have we even discussed the fact that Larkyn is in preschool? I am ashamed to say that I think I forgot to do a "First Day of Preschool" post...blasphemy!  Well, here is a quick catch-up:
 Wasn't she just born yesterday?

So, Larkyn is in preschool and it is going well. She has made friends, is learning to be patient, and is experiencing structure that will help her prepare for kindergarten. Since this is a church preschool, they perform a Christmas show in the sanctuary, and I was happy to take a day off to watch it.

 Here she comes up the aisle...will she make it up there or will she stop and want to sit with us?

 She made it! 

 Saying "hi" to me. We were about 10 rows back, so I was glad she could spot us.

 I wish I knew which song she was singing here, but she was loving it! Please note the leggings pulled from her ankles up to her shins. And the missing pigtail on the right. Love this girl.

 Back in the classroom, the kids had a party and Santa came to visit! She is thinking hard about what she wants him to bring her...

And the next day was our sitter's annual pajama day. Last year, Larkyn would have gladly worn her footed PJs all day every day. This year, she needed a little convincing. It was worth it though...check out this crew!




I have been lucky to have such a great sitter since Larkyn was 17 weeks old. Now, she is the oldest child in Miss C's care. I have no idea how she orchestrates a picture like this, but I love it!

Rhys is 9 months old!

This has truly been the most eventful month for our little guy. I can't believe what he has suddenly learned, and not sure we were prepared for all of it!


Stats: I only included this because I have to laugh. I have no idea how much he weighs or how tall he is. His 12 month footed PJs are getting a little snug in the feet, how's that?

New milestones:  We have a climber!  All hands on deck for this little mountaineer, who learned how to pull himself up on a Monday and by Sunday could climb a full flight of stairs (with his mommy behind him every second). He's also for-real crawling rather than pulling himself across the floor with his elbows. No more dirty bellies from pulling himself, but his poor little knees!  He is also eating anything you put on his tray, literally stuffing his face with fistfuls of Cheerios, puffs and soft fruits.

Loves: Diced peaches, pulling over toy baskets, throwing books across the room with his sister, sweet potato puffs, pancakes, Peppa Pig, waking up at least three times per night, being tickled in the ribs

Dislikes: Wearing his new winter coat in the carseat

Nine months in, nine months out. It feels like we have always had him. Our sweet boy who is shy and smiley with strangers and curious as can be...

I have to admit...

...that Larkyn was throwing a FIT in the car on our way to a play cafe (what kind of terrible mom am I?) because of the way her coat fit. After about mile 2, we were at an intersection with Charity Newsies. I told her they were Santa's helpers checking the cars to make sure no kids were crying. I even opened her window as I gave him the dollar for our paper. They were out all day at major intersections, and every time she saw them, she said "We want to be good girls and boys..."

...that I think I am finally addicted to coffee/lattes in the morning. I realized it yesterday when at 2:00, I thought I would fall asleep in the middle of reading The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck. Thank goodness it was an adorable new book (teachers- great mentor text for speech bubbles, onomatopoeia and labeling!)

...that I haven't started shopping for anyone but my kids.

...that I'm much more lax about feeding Rhys than I was with Larkyn. If he grabs it and it's not a choking hazard, it's fair game. He really likes to eat. Anything.

...that I winced at the thought of shelling out so much money for California Baby products but now I am a believer. Larkyn has been sooooo itchy for the last month with dry skin and scalp that I had to do something different. Luckily, my mother in law bought us a bottle of the shampoo and lotion for my baby shower, and I started using it on her this week. Game changer!

...that I nailed it in the kitchen this week. Four nights of meals that we didn't throw out and made for good lunch the next day (homemade chili, No-Peek beef tips, John Legend's mac and cheese, and pasta al forno). I like another recipe for homemade mac and cheese better, but JL's was pretty good. I add a small bit of jarred pasta sauce to the al forno or it is too dry. These are some of our favorites!

...that I am so excited to watch Larkyn's preschool Christmas show next week!  Except, how do people take high quality videos these days?

What's on your mind? Any out-of-the-park meals this week or Santa bribery shenanigans?

Less than 3 weeks to...


Does anyone else realize that we have an entire WEEK less than usual because of the late Thanksgiving!? That means that while we are "just" starting to think about Christmas, it is 18 days away. I don't want to forget to do these special things with the kids!

We made a gingerbread house already, but I know Larkyn would LOVE to make an ice cream cone tree. Um who wouldn't? Cone + icing + MMs? Yes please.

I have had handprint art pinned since I became a "beta" member of Pinterest 4 years ago. It's high time I use some of those adorable ideas before my kids have man hands.

Of course we have to make Christmas cookies. But, I'm not really up for the cut-outs and icing and sprinkles this year. I know, Grinch. I know my limits....last year's experience with this about did me in. I'm thinking pre-shaped this year.

I think Larkyn could understand the message of donating a toy this year. Or maybe even a bunch of pet supplies to take to the animals at Colony Cats. Or something else? Whatever it is, I want her to see where the gift goes and how it helps. Dropping it in a bin at Toys R Us doesn't quite do it.

We have a big box of Christmas books under the tree, and I only bring them out in December. We need to read those puppies before it is time to put them away again!

Larkyn actually realized the other day, "Hey mommy. Santa comes down our chimney but...then does he come in the door?" We have a chimney but no fireplace. So, a magic key it is!


I always liked leaving carrots for the reindeer, but this stuff is just so cute (my students love making it!) One link has a free printable, one link has gorgeous DIY bags that have Nana written all over them.


What traditions do you do with your kids? We will revisit the Advent calendar next year. One that does NOT include chocolate.

Six on Saturday

 {1}

The kids saw Santa this morning! I love going back to my high school each year to support their Key Club (service project group) They have a pancake breakfast, several crafts, and best of all, Santa pictures you can take yourself. Both kids were a little unsure, but Larkyn talked to him through her hands on her mouth and told him she wants a Peppa Pig.

{2} 

Modern Parents Messy Kids gift guides. Actually their entire website and their Pinterest boards are so helpful. I almost wanted to take everything I bought on Black Friday and start all over once I read their gift guides. Like me, the writer obsesses and researches each purchase until she can't even see straight.  I won't be re-shopping, but keeping this list for birthdays and Christmases in the future, while probably adding this set for the kids this year.

{3}
Trader Joe's Advent calendars given (and eaten in entirety) on December 1. I was feeling good about my tradition-starting skills by getting it out on the right day and explaining it to Larkyn. However, when I got home from work that day, Matt alerted me that "something" had been consumed in her room at naptime but he didn't know what. Yep. All 25 pieces of chocolate on Day 1.

{4}

Planning for Christmas cookies. In years past, I have given some sort of snack mix. This year, I have the urge to make a few different cookies instead. Any suggestions? I'm thinking Yummy Cracker snacks, classic fudge, and maybe snowballs? Too many choices!

{5}

Booking a joint birthday party! This year, we are going to combine the kids' birthdays and try a new play cafe. And please, the theme has been in the back of my mind since Rhys' ears perked up at the sound of his sister watching her favorite pig.

{6}

Someone is growing up too fast around here. I will share the full run-down on his 9 month post (!), but check out these yoga feet balancing him as he pulls up on the stairs (and of course, his football field leg warmers).

Vintage carnival playroom

When we were looking for our new house, one of our "musts" was either a finished basement or a lower price tag that would allow us to finish the basement in the new house. We ended up with the latter.
 coming down the stairs
bottom of the stairs, looking towards the kid's side

Finding someone to do the work was a lot harder than we expected. The bids were either out of our price range or the contractors did not want to do the project because it was too small of a job. We finally had a choice to make: Wait until we had more money after tax time or turn to Craigslist. If you know us, we don't "wait" well. So, Craiglist it was.

2 months later, it is finished. There were definitely several bumps along the way and a lot of the work was not up to our expectations, but we decided to just pay the man the (very low) price and send him on his way before he "completed" anything else. Along with Matt's dad, we finished the rest ourselves.

You know I love to decorate and having a coherent room theme helps me pull it all together. I wanted a gender-neutral scheme that was inspired by one of Larkyn's very favorite things: carousels. I branched out, including all kinds of carnival elements.

Like the rest of the house, I either ordered all items from Etsy or bought them at Michael's. There is a lot of blank space, leaving room for a lot more toys, more framed art (I have several photos of her on a carousel), a TV, maybe a small sofa, and a fun little space under the stairs. But for now, the kids are having fun on the carpet and playing with toys they haven't seen in a long time.

 After: Standing at the bottom of the stairs. The & sign is where the kitchen pipe was showing. The paint color is Copen Blue from Sherwin Williams (which I love).

 I put a tension rod for Larkyn's dress-up clothes (Santa is bringing more). Matt and Grandpa are going to build built-in shelving above the rod.

 Now I am standing by the dress-up clothes looking toward the area where you saw the furnace in the first photo. The door will be painted white. And to the far left, you see the area under the stairs. Right now, it is going to house toy rotation bins, but I want to make it a reading spot or playhouse.

 My two favorite items: The Vintage Carnival bunting is from Sugar Owl design on etsy. The ampersand sign is from Michael's and is battery powered. We know a TV will go on the wall one day, so we have an outlet ready.

 I made this sign with a white opaque marker on black foam board.

 Finally, a place for Larkyn's art!  I just strung a piece of twine onto the nails under each frame. The prints are from PaperPatchPrints.

 We reused this cube storage unit from our living room at the old house, replacing the black bins with muted yellow ones from Target (Circo). The carousel photo is from Libertad Leal.

 These are the craziest sized prints. I had my choice of 8x10 or 8x12 (true digital size). When I sized up for free, I didn't know 8x12 frames are about 3x more expensive than standard. Eventually, I'll Mod Podge them onto 2 canvases. I still love them though, from Carolyn Cochrane on etsy.

 Above the little table are 5x7 prints from The Vintage Remix. They are sold as tags, but she sized them up for me and I printed at Office Depot for about a dollar!  I email them my files and then just go pick them up...so convenient.



The other side of the basement is Matt's mancave. It is not quite photo-ready, but with the playroom, adds 1/3 more living space to our house. I am so happy with the way it all turned out!
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