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One Question to Ask Your Child Tonight [and How it Changed My Parenting]

My son at four just doesn't quite "get" this question. He says things like "about when you give me treats." Or "about my animals." So this topic took me days and re-wording and leading thoughts to get answers from him. I think it's adorable that he prefaces everything with "about."

The first time I asked I got the above answers. Instead of days, I let this one stew for two months. Just as an experiment in growth and development. In two short months the answer changed to:

"Hmmm. By playing with me in my room."

I was excited that he's growing so smart. Developing well. Saddened that even before five years old, TIME...MY time was what he wanted and also what he must be missing, even as I type this. (For that very reason I'm keeping it short!)

I think that a LOT of children will have a similar answer, relating to time with their parents. So for THAT reason too, this will be short.

Take the time today. (And the last reason I'll keep it short is that it's my youngest son's birthday!!)

Make your children FEEL loved. When you next ask them "How can I help you feel loved?" They might just tell you over your morning coffee and yogurt that they DO feel loved. Keep doing what you're doing mom... That's my perfect scenario anyway!

So we're off to the kitchen table, to put sprinkles on our Oh My Yog! and devour a birthday treat this morning. I'm giving him (and his big brother) my TIME today. Undivided and unconditionally.

Disclosure: This post was made possible by Stonyfield Organics.

Countdown to Christmas: Family Holiday Book Activity

We love the *idea* of the Advent calendar. Though we're spiritual, we're not doing anything to do with the season of Advent in the religious realm--for lack of our own knowledge and experience! We do want to do some kind of fun count down until Christmas though. So we decided with very young kids that we'd do a book time countdown.

25 Holiday or Winter Themed Books - Sources

You'll want to start working on this a little ahead of time. It's not terribly difficult to find 25 titles that are holiday-themed, BUT if you want to find secondhand books or neat vintage titles, you'll need more time. I use our schools "book orders" from Scholastic Book Clubs to get some of the newest, eye-catching titles (especially if they are in the $1-$2 range, since we do not pay shipping with that program.)

Amazon will get you almost anything you'd like -- I ordered "Secrets of Winter" -- an Usborne book that was (at the time) out of stock. I found it overseas and had it in a reasonable amount of time for the same price or less than my consultant listed it for -- I also didn't have a guarantee it would be back in print by Christmas, so I wasn't taking any chances!

I love perusing second hand stores. It's part of my greenie personality I suppose, but all of those books with no homes... It's like the Island of Misfit Toys! But books! I've found some pristine copies of books by Jan Brett (usually a family favorite), some truly nostalgic vintage titles -- such as The Sweet Smell of Christmas (a childhood fave!) I've heard this book has had a new reprint and can be found at Walmart, but holding an original copy is fantastic! (Though the smells are almost all gone...) My best thrifty find was Merry Christmas Curious George. I got a hardcover copy for $2.00 at a thrift store and was just about to check out the day before from Amazon with the title for over $15!

Another option that we love is getting a personalized book each year. I See Me! books has many options for holiday giving. There is something about a child being a part of the story makes them so excited! My son's eyes light up when he hears his name, the names of family members and pets, and has all of those details intertwined into a classic like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas or even a fun new story about their own Christmas fun. Not just for the Christmas season, you can get books for your little princess or pirate with their own name in several different storylines with details like their pets, family and other fun personal touches that really make the story special!

Though you could do this with JUST a Christmas theme, we do more of a winter/holiday theme. The first book that is always opened each year is Turkey Claus -- to sort of blend the transition from Thanksgiving to the holiday season. We added to our reading fun this year a great wintry title by Angela Muse called The Christmas Owl. It's a great story about the goodwill of the season with a winterscape and nature-loving touch. Beautiful rhyming words and illustrations paint an amazing story for kids of all ages that adults will love to read.

A cultural theme is also a great option for this activity.

25 Days of Christmas Books in Action

So to make this work, simply wrap 25 holiday-themed books (or more -- we put one or two books in one wrapped package if they are particularly short reads). Label them 1-25 and open them on the corresponding night each day in December. I keep a list, just so I know when long stories are on deck to prepare enough time for bedtime story time. We love this idea since the kids NEVER bug us about gifts under the tree -- they are getting to unwrap something each day. We use newspaper when we have it around, to reuse paper material. We have one tote that at the end of each holiday season we pack up with all of the books and put away for the next year. This way the kids aren't reading them a dozen times each month and they are more special come December! We usually dig out the tote and decide if we want to replace any titles with a different option. This is a fun time to schedule a book swap with other friends and get and give books, get the kids together, and have coffee with other moms!

Some of Our Favorites

Turkey Claus
Baby Kermit's Christmas
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Olive the Other Reindeer
The Christmas Owl
Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas
The Christmas Cats
Santa Cat
A Very Marley Christmas
Bear Stays Up For Christmas
The Tomten
The Tomten's Christmas Porridge
12 Days of Yule
Christmas at Grandma's
Secrets of Winter
Christmas Bear
A Christmas Wish for Corduroy 
The Pups Save Christmas!
Merry Christmas, Splat!
Snowy Day
Merry Christmas, Curious George!
The Sweet Smell of Christmas
'Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Dinosaur's Night Before Christmas
The Christmas Wish
The Wild Christmas Reindeer

Disclosure: One or more books in this post were complimentary copies that we received to facilitate this article and enjoy for our our Christmas countdown activity. All opinions are my own.

Because Everyday is Like I'm at the Spa

Few things can transport me to another place when children are hanging on my ankles, screaming, singing renditions of several songs mashed up into a strange new cover, and general chaos is afoot. One of those things is coffee. Another is chocolate. Big surprise there, right? Of course a good beer or a back rub doesn't hurt either. But for the early morning escape -- you know long before it's considered appropriate to have a glass or wine or copious amounts of chocolate...

Her Interactive - Nancy Drew Fans Unite!

I have a little bit of escape every night -- chocolate. Then after chocolate, once the kids are in bed, I generally scan Facebook and watch an episode of Big Bang Theory or some other mindless TV watching for just a bit. THEN comes the true treat: a little gaming!

What Goes Best With Granola?

Well, if you said chocolate, I'd have to give you credit. Chocolate goes with everything! But, we're not talking chocolate today. What we've been experimenting with in our family (again) is healthier eating with an emphasis on healthier snacking!

He Likes it HOT!! The PERFECT dad gift!

The Monthly Pepper Box may just be the best thing my husband gets this year! He loves hot sauces and spices and eating raw peppers. He's also nuts! But, I love him, and so I try to keep him in pepper sauces and spices! I also make it a little game to see just how hot and zany I can find in sauces and peppers to see if I can make his eyes water a bit! Maybe we're both crazy! 

Your best friend in the pursuit of all things hot sauce, Monthly Pepper Box is like having a miniature hot sauce festival delivered to your door every month. Each month discover three bottles of artisan hot sauces for only $22. 

Get 10% off your membership (Gift & Ongoing) at Monthly Pepper Box. Make dads (or moms) happy with this perfect addition under the tree or in a stocking. (Does anyone have KIDS that love pepper sauces?) Mine think ketsup is spicy and they get it from ME! And for the record...some ketsup IS spicy! 

My readers get to save! 10% off Gift Membership or Ongoing Subscription signup - Use code: 10HOLIDAY

Disclosure: I wrote this post in a partnership with US Family Guides and Monthly Pepper Box.

Shutterfly and Stonyfield: Making Memories

When my first child was born, I was so organized. I didn't feel like I had any "spare" time, but oh how wrong I was! Having two children is a game changer. Our friends that have three say "that third one you never recover from!" I also have a friend with five kids and she seems like the most "together" person in the world. The conclusion I came to is this: enjoy the moments, do your best, this is YOUR journey.

Since my youngest is approaching a year, I should be doing whatever it is one does with fondant to make a brilliant cake. I should be making said cake from scratch. My house should be spotless for the company that will be coming over. I should have the perfect gifts. Maybe a little DVD put together of favorite pictures of his first year.

Well, I don't have any of that going on. I have a semi-clean, well-diapered, fed and happy baby. And a disgruntled preschooler who wasn't able to go to The Good Dinosaur because of the weather tonight. So what did I do to get a grip on our crazy life in that moment?

I sat the baby in the high chair. The big boy at the table. I gave them both a yogurt and I went to work making the first birthday invitations. Granted, they won't arrive until a few days before the party -- so they are almost entirely superficial. I have already invited people by word of mouth. BUT, at least I'll have those adorable invites for posterity sake! Thanks to Shutterfly, when I look back on this time and see that invite with my baby's beautiful blues pasted into the baby book, I won't remember the harried way life was. I'll just look at his gorgeous plump little cheeks and want all this chaos back.

I'm not going to keep comparing myself to my FORMER self or any other moms out there. This is my story, to write and record on my own, with my beautiful boys and a little help once in a while from Shutterfly and Stonyfield! Maybe I'll make a calendar next, to try and keep life sorted out in the New Year! (Or a more practical item for ME -- a customized blanket with my lovies faces on it to snuggle all the time!)

Disclosure: I received a yogurt coupons and a promotional code for $20 off from I was responsible for costs beyond the code and shipping.