Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!


I am so relieved that the weekend is here! This week was a doozy, to put it kindly. It all started last Friday, when I came down with the flu. By the end of the day, I was in bed with horrible chills and body aches. I was shaking uncontrollably and I kept telling my husband that it was the sickest I have felt in many years.  When I woke up the next day, all symptoms were gone except for constant nausea and weakness, which lasted several days.

Meanwhile, Lily got another UTI, I had a 3 day migraine, and we had $1000 in unexpected bills. Needless to say, I was ready to lose my mind. I only blogged once in one week, which hasn't happened in, well...ever!

But I'm back and I'm ready to share a few of my current favorite things!

Friday Favorites

Life-Size Elf on the Shelf 

What started as just a cute picture turned into a fun photo project! We're having so much fun having Liam recreate our Elf on the Shelf's adventures each day!

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The Box That Keeps Giving

Anybody who knows me personally knows that I have a chocolate addiction. I could seriously eat it everyday. (Should I admit that I usually do?)  Godiva sent me the sweetest gift in the mail: The Box That Keeps Giving! There's one box for me to keep and one box to give away.  The gift recipient then gets to keep a box and give one away...and so on! Check out my video to see this fun idea in action. As for me, I'm thoroughly enjoying my own box of delicious chocolates! #GiveGodiva #GodivaInsider

  
Photoshoots

I found a new location for photoshoots today. I shouldn't really say found. I literally drive by the spot at least 15 times a week, but I never thought to stop. It's perfect and I think we're going to go there for our Christmas photoshoot. Lily jumped out of the car because she spotted the fake cat, so I snapped a few quick pictures in one of her adorable holiday outfits gifted to her from Healthtex! That wasn't the plan, but I managed to capture three cute pictures in the 30 second time frame! It was only 28 degrees and really windy, so we got out of there fast!

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Thursdays

Thursday is my busiest day of the week. I have to pick Lily up from Kindergarten at 11:40, drop Liam off at school at 12:30, run errands, race home for lunch, pick Liam up from school at 3:00, and race back home to get a few things done before we have to rush back out the door at 4:30. But Thursday evenings are my new favorite! 

Dylan has basketball and it's immediately followed by dance for Lily. Grant doesn't get home from the office until 7-8, so my parents come over to watch Liam and Lexie while we're gone. I'm not going to sugar coat it. I LOVE IT. My mom cooks dinner, does all the dishes and cleans up my house. It's such an amazing break after a long week.

Meanwhile, Dylan's best friend is on his basketball team and his mom is one of my best friends so we get to chat for an entire hour. Then, at dance, Lily's best friend has class, too. Her mom is one of my best friends, so we get to talk.  I get over two hours with friends, get a break from all of my kids (it's needed at times), and I come home to a clean house and a fully cooked meal. WINNING.

Saint Nicholas Day

We added a new tradition to our list this year: Saint Nicholas Day! My dad's German/Catholic family celebrated it when he was a child, but none of his children carried on the tradition. I decided that it was time for us to carry it on in honor of my dad and his family! 

The kids put out their shoes before bed and they were so excited to find them filled with gold coins, candy and a little treat the next morning!

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Favorite Reads

Lexie is currently reading a book we received for review called The Briefcase of Juris P. Prudence by J.N. Childress. She is an avid reader and she is loving this book! The book is about J.P. and her friends, who are child lawyers. As I type this, Lexie is nearing the end of the book, so her thoughts will be coming soon! You can purchase this book HERE

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Toddler Must Have

Liam, like many other toddlers, gets into everything!  I couldn't take it anymore, so I had big plans to go around my house and childproof the hot spots. Safety Latches from The Good Stuff arrived JUST in time!

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I'm not one who was ever big on child proofing. One of the reasons was because I hate all the complicated installation methods. The safety latches from The Good Stuff are a cinch to install thanks to the 3M adhesive backing, and they work PERFECTLY. Unlike many other latches that often take an engineering degree or super strength to open, these latches open with just a light push down on the latch. I highly recommend these to any parent!

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Although we don't have the style of cabinets that will work with the safety ties, I have them stashed in my bag for child proofing on the go! Let me just say that they already came in handy at the doctor's office. They were really easy to use!

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Scoop Rockers

Lily and Liam got these scoop rockers for Christmas last year. At under $5 each, they are literally one of the best purchases I've ever made. They use them ALL the time!

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Snap & Shop

Here's a little sneak peak at a product that is a GAME CHANGER if you have a little kid. I am seriously in love with this amazing, high-quality, genius product! More to come...

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Pure Joy! 

I always love to end my favorites with a big dose of joy! And who better to spread love and joy than Liam?!?

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I hope you all have a wonderful December weekend! What do you have planned? 


Let's Be Friends!

 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Gift of Time + JORD Watch Instant Giveaway

DISCLAIMER: This post is sponsored by JORD. I received product in exchange for my honest review. I loved JORD prior to receiving the product and all images and opinions are 100% my own.

As Christmas draws closer, I always go into panic mode as time rapidly ticks by. There are those on my list who are so easy to shop for. Their gifts are already bought and wrapped, and absolutely perfect for them. But I always struggle to find the perfect gift for a few of my loved ones.

Each year, I search for the perfect gift for my dad and nothing seems right. My dad is very practical and not the least bit extravagant. He isn't one to spoil himself and he always says that he doesn't need anything more than the basic necessities. I try every year, but I can never find the perfect gift. He's an amazing dad and an even more amazing grandpa. He deserves something extra special!

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My dad grew up in a large family that didn't have much money. He started working to help out when he was younger than my own son. As a mother, that makes my heart ache, but he did what he had to do, and he never stopped. He attempted early retirement, but quickly grew bored and realized that extra income would be nice. A decade later, he attempted retirement again with the same result.

At the age of 76, my dad is still a dependable, hard-working man. I really do wish I could give him the gift of retirement and relaxation, but that isn't the right fit for him. Working hard was drilled into him at such a young age and it became part of who he is. He needs to be doing something in order to stay happy, and to be perfectly honest, I do believe it keeps his mind sharp.

That being said, my dad deserves something really special this year. He buys himself whatever he needs when he needs it, and I don't want to give him something he would typically buy. I want his gift to mean something to him. Not only is he my rock, but he's also the BEST grandfather my kids could ever ask for.  

I know everybody says that, but it's true. When my dad sees his grandchildren, his eyes light up. His love for them is immediately evident and the feeling is mutual. They all have a bond that can't be broken. I often think that he is Liam's most favorite person. Perhaps it's because they bonded from the moment they met. When I dropped the bombshell on my parents when they walked into the delivery room, my dad's only response was, "Where's my grandson? I want to meet him." And when they met, tears filled his eyes, he smiled down at Liam and declared, "He's perfect. I don't see Down syndrome. I just see my grandson."

 A small part of me is jealous of the relationship my kids have with my dad because I never had that growing up. One of my grandfathers passed away when I was very young and my other grandfather lived very far away. My kids are incredibly lucky to have a doting grandfather whom they are able to visit twice a week!

When I was a child, my dad gave me the gift of time spent with him. He filled my weekends with incredible experiences. He took me hiking, we visited new towns and we explored museums and zoos. I have the most amazing memories of our adventures together and now my own children are making the same memories.

Every weekend, my dad does something special with one of my children.  They alternate their weekends sleeping over at Papa and Nina's house so they each get a turn. He takes them to breakfast or lunch on their weekend and buys them a little gift. Once a month, they go on a bigger outing. He takes Dylan fishing, he takes Lexie to a nearby farm to visit the animals, and he takes Lily to the zoo. They always return home with huge smiles and souvenirs from their adventure. My dad is now giving my kids the gift of time spent with him and I know those memories are going to last a lifetime.

As I get older, it is becoming more evident that time is not a guarantee. The harsh reality is that my dad is going to be 77 and the impact of that takes my breath away. I fervently wish that he has twenty more years with us, but there's simply no guarantee for any of us. Time is never on our side. There's not enough time to tackle that to do list. There's not enough time to get everything done. There's not enough time spent in this world. And there's certainly not enough time to spend with those we love most.

This Christmas, I want to thank my dad for giving me and my children so much of his precious time by giving him the gift of time.  

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A stunning wood watch from JORD is the perfect gift for anyone on your Christmas list and it's the perfect gift for my dad.

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The watch I chose for my dad looks like it was custom made for him! I chose the Dark Sandalwood & Burgundy watch from the Conway series. It just reminded me so much of him. Burgundy is a color my dad always seemed to wear and the beautiful wood reminds me of all the years he spent wood working. From the gorgeous custom bed my dad built for me as a child to the wooden spoons that now sit in my utensil jar, my dad loved to create anything and everything from wood!

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The face of the watch displays hours, minutes, seconds and the date. I thought this was the perfect feature for a man with a military background. He is always prompt and on time!

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Although the watch is made out of wood, it is splash proof (but should not be submerged) which makes it a perfect choice for everyday use. It's a beautiful, versatile watch that is suitable for everyday wear and fancier occasions.

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A wood watch from JORD can be sized prior to shipping for a small, additional fee. Finding the correct size can be done by using a tape measure or the JORD Wrist Sizer, which is a tool that you can download and print. Or you can simply take the watch to a local jeweler or watch shop if it needs to be sized.

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JORD is now offering a NEW way to customize their already gorgeous watches! I am so excited about this option. JORD now offers wood engraving on their watch box and watch engraving on certain styles! Everybody loves an engraved gift because it makes it so much more personal.

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The cedar box that the watch arrives in is already beautiful enough, but now it can be customized with a special note, quote, monogram, logo or handwritten message for $45. You have the option to choose block or script engraving to make this gift more personal.

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Personalized engraving is now available on certain watch styles for $35. (Fieldcrest, Reece, Frankie35, Frankie, and Conway series.) The special message gets engraved on the backplate in either block or script engraving. I knew this was the perfect option to make my dad's watch even more special! Since he spends so much of his time with his beloved grandchildren, I opted for this message: "Love you, Papa! Love, DALL" (Dylan, Alexandria, Liliana and Liam.) 

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I know this is going to be an extra special gift for my dad this year! Now he will have a reminder of his grandchildren (and their love for him) with him at all times!  

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The Gift of Time + Instant Giveaway from JORD


My dad's gift this year is a token of all the time we spent together and a reminder to always make the most of all the time we have left! We can't WAIT to give it to him for Christmas! 

 

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Thank you to JORD for sponsoring today's post and helping us give an incredibly memorable Christmas gift!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Favorite Things: December

Happy Friday! Can you believe it's already December and the countdown to Christmas has  begun? I certainly can't! This year FLEW by!


Yesterday was a quite a day (to put it nicely) and it kicked the Christmas spirit right out of me. I'm hoping this roundup of my current Christmas favorites does the trick!

December Favorites


SNOW!!!


Okay, so I don't actually love snow. It's pretty to look at, but I hate driving in it and I hate the cold that comes with it! But it is fun for, oh, five minutes!

We had our first snowfall of the year a few days before Thanksgiving, then it went back to 60+ degree weather. The colder weather returned today and snow flurries are in the forecast. It SHOULD snow in December, but after Christmas it can disappear until next year!!!

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CHRISTMAS GOODIES FROM TARGET DOLLAR SPOT

Who else is addicted to the Target Dollar Spot? Can't stop, won't stop! They have the BEST holiday items! I can't make it past this section without spending $20. Well played, Target, well played.

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HOLIDAY CHEER

This sweet boy of mine is loving all the holiday decor! We're not even a quarter of the way done with our decorating so he's in for a big surprise. Christmas is so much fun when you have little ones around. They just take in everything with so much wonder and joy!

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 PERSONALIZED ORNAMENTS

We get a new personalized Christmas ornament for our tree each year. I love adding to our collection! This year we got an adorable family ornament from Personal Creations! They have so many cute choices and I love how you can build a family and personalize it. I think this is our new go to for our family ornament and I love the padded storage bag that it arrives in. It's such a great addition to our collection of ornaments on our Christmas Tree!

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personal creations

Personal Creations sent me this ornament to help add some holiday cheer to this post!  ( Last name removed for security purposes.)

CHRISTMAS MUGS

One of the few things that I collect is coffee mugs and tea cups. My collection is a bit out of control so I have to pack away the seasonal mugs after each holiday.  I love pulling out my Christmas mugs each year and I always add one or two new ones to my collection!

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How sweet is that gift basket that I received from French Toast for National French Toast Day on Monday?!? I collaborated with them in September and I was so surprised when this basket of goodies arrived in the mail! Of course, we celebrated by consuming way too much french toast!

LITTLE COSMETICS

Lily received the sweetest mess-free, no transfer pretend makeup set from Little Cosmetics! She absolutely loves it and has been carrying it around for days. You can purchase the makeup individually or purchase the products in gift sets. This set is great for OT, has lots of textures for kids who love sensory play and is the ultimate pretend play toy for a little girl!

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little cosmetics

DISCLOSURE: Lily is loving this set gifted from Little Cosmetics and we are sharing our love for the product with a blog feature!

WIN SOME NETFLIX!!!

I absolutely loved Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and I'm ready to watch it again! Did you enter my Netflix subscription giveaway? HURRY...it ends this weekend!  

Netflix Stream Team

ELF ON THE SHELF

Our elf arrived for the very first time today and Lily was SO excited! He brought the kids a North Pole Breakfast complete with little gifts. But that elf, whom she lovingly named Christopher, has some serious competition this year...

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What are YOU currently loving right now? I hope you all have a fun and festive December weekend! 



Let's Be Friends!



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Traditions to Start with Your Family

Happy December! It's officially the most wonderful time of the year!


I love everything about Christmas. The month of December is always full of joy and tradition. I started my Christmas traditions post on Thanksgiving Eve. What began as a list of 12 quickly turned into 25, and I just kept adding to it over the past week! Some traditions are carried over from our own childhood and we adopted other traditions along the way.

Christmas Traditions to Start with Your Family

Decorate the Christmas Tree Night

We kick off the Christmas season by putting up our Christmas Tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Christmas pajamas and Christmas music are a must!

Grant unwraps each ornament one by one and hands it to the person it belongs to or randomly chooses a person if it's a family ornament, and that person hangs it on the tree.  It can be a lengthy process but it makes it so much more special. The kids are always so excited to rediscover their favorite ornaments!

When we are done decorating the tree, one special child gets to top the tree with our star. We keep a list in the box with the date/child who put the star on the tree and we rotate through our kids to keep it fair. This year it was Dylan's turn!

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The Christmas Pickle

When my dad was a child, his parents hid a glass pickle ornament in their tree. The first child to find it got a present. Some say it's a German tradition but that seems to be a myth. Either way, it's a fun tradition! My dad carried on the tradition when I was a child, and my parents bought us a pickle ornament the year Dylan was born. We now have two glass pickle ornaments that we hide in our tree and the kids immediately rush to our decorated tree to try to find them first!

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Christmas Parade and Town Light-Up Night

Each year, we go to a parade and light up night in Grant's hometown. They always have hot chocolate, drinks and treats before the parade, then Santa arrives in a sleigh at the end of the parade and lights up the town. The kids are always so excited about their first visit with Santa!

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Elf on the Shelf

This is a first for us this year! When Elf on the Shelf first became popular, Dylan was starting to question things, so the timing was off. When he stopped questioning (if you catch my drift), Lexie started. As of a few days ago, her questions stopped, so we can finally have an Elf come to our home. He arrives this morning and Lily is incredibly excited!!! And keep your eye out for an extra special elf who will be making an appearance tomorrow, too! ;) 

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Family Movie Night: Christmas Edition

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that weekly Family Movie Night is our thing. During the holiday season, we try to add more days to the mix. There's just so much to watch! Some of  our favorites are Polar Express, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, The Santa Clause, Santa Claus The Movie, Rudolph, Frosty, The Grinch, A Christmas Carol, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Claymation Christmas, Garfield's Christmas, Emmet Otter and the Jugband Christmas, Muppets Christmas Carol...and more! PHEW. I'm certain I left out some favorites!

25 Books of Christmas

Many people wrap Christmas books and place them in a special basket for the kids to open one each night and read. I don't wrap our books. I just place them all in our Holiday Book Crate and let the kids read freely. We just choose one each night to read together and end it with The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve and a book about Jesus on Christmas night.  And to be perfectly honest, we have way more than 25 books! This is just the November installment. The rest will be placed in the crate later today!

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Christmas Countdown Calendars

Growing up, I loved my Christmas Countdown Calendar. The closer that little mouse got to the end, the more excited I became! My family has two Christmas Countdown Calendars. One is Santa with a long beard and the candy cane gets moved down each day and the other is a snowman with a snowflake. The kids love to take turns moving the candy cane and snowflake each day!

A Night with Santa

Every year, we take our kids to visit Santa in his little house in my hometown. I remember visiting Santa there, my dad was Santa (or rather HELPED Santa) several years and we started this tradition for our little family when Dylan was 2 weeks old. 

We make a night of it. First we visit Santa, then we get pizza at Pizza Hut, and we end the evening by walking through a light display in town. We look forward to this night each year!

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Gingerbread Houses

It's a must to make Gingerbread Houses each year! Grant and I are NOT fans of this tradition. Up until last year, we did all the work. But the kids love it, so we do it! Thankfully, Lexie and Dylan could do this on their own last year so it's a bit easier these days!

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Christmas Lights

Another favorite tradition is the night we all pile into the car in our pajamas. We cover up with blankets, sip hot chocolate and drive past all the coolest houses while listening to Christmas music. So simple and so much fun!


There used to be an amazing drive through light display in Pittsburgh that we went to every year. When they stopped doing it, we were so upset! We went several years without one, then last year, a new display came to the area. It wasn't the same but it was REALLY good! We can't wait to drive through the lights again this year and stop at McDonald's for hot chocolate and ice cream!

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Christmas Cookies

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without Christmas cookies! The kids and I have been making and decorating cut out sugar cookies since Dylan was a toddler. We love to make a bunch and deliver them to our favorite people!

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Family Ornaments

It's our tradition to add two family ornaments to our tree each year! The first one is from our vacation spot that year and the second is a personalized family ornament with the year on it. We're acquiring quite a collection!

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Homemade Ornament

I'm a sucker for keepsakes, so I have the kids make a homemade ornament each year. My favorites have been our thumprint Rudolph ornaments and our handprint snowmen ornaments!

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Special Ornaments from Grandparents

Each year, Grant's mom gives each kid a special ornament based on what they currently love or what stage they are currently in. My parents have also done this. Although it's going to be tough to part with their ornaments, the plan is to give them every ornament from each year of their life when they get their own home.

Sugarplum Saturday

One of my favorite traditions is Sugarplum Saturday. I get together with my mom and my sisters and we spend the afternoon baking and laughing. At the end of the day, we divvy up the goodies between us!

Yearly Christmas Photo

Like so many others, I take a Christmas picture of my kids each year for our card. It's fun to look back at all of our Christmas cards and see how much our family has grown!

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Christmas Shopping Date Night

Grant hates Christmas shopping so I started a fun tradition. I get a sitter and we spend the day doing our Christmas shopping and end it with dinner. It's a great compromise and he doesn't complain...too much!


There's a store about an hour away that has the most amazing themed Christmas Tree displays. After we make our way through, I feel the urge to buy every decoration in sight. Well played, Kraynak's, well played. We usually head over to the nearby Chocolate Kingdom at the World's Largest Candy Store. Needless to say, it's an expensive day.

Siblings Gifts

Teaching our kids how to be giving is very important to us. In order to do that, we have our kids buy gifts for each other each year. The older kids do their shopping at their school's holiday shops and I take the younger ones to the store. It's never anything big but they get SO excited about giving their siblings (and their parents) the gifts they chose on Christmas morning. It's honestly my favorite part of the day!

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Annual Christmas Party

When Dylan was a toddler, our friend started the tradition of having an annual Christmas party and gift exchange. We looked forward to it each year! The group has decreased drastically over the past few years and it's definitely not the same, but I will always think fondly of this tradition!


Every year, each of our kids get a special video from Portable North Pole and an email from Santa. I save the video and print out the emails so we have keepsakes! It's such a fun and exciting tradition for them!

Bedroom Christmas Trees

Although we already have several Christmas Trees in our home, the kids love having trees in their bedrooms. There is one in the boys' room and one in the girls' room and they get to decorate their trees however they want! Every night, we turn on their tree and they use them as nightlights all season long!

Season of Giving

We try to give as much as we can during the holiday season! Some of our favorite things to do: take supplies to our local pet shelter, pack a box for Operation Christmas Child and choose a child to shop for off of a giving tree.

All Things Christmas

During the month of December, we try to wear Christmas clothing or colors each day and Christmas pajamas each night. We drink our coffee, hot chocolate and tea out of our favorite Christmas mugs. We even eat our meals and put our drinks in special Christmas china and cups. It just adds an extra festive touch to the season!

Concerts and Class Parties

Now that we have kids in school, our month is packed with more Christmas fun! Each child has a class party, Lily has a Polar Express day and Dylan has a band, chorus and orchestra concert in the middle of December. The kids think school in December is so exciting!

Reindeer Food

Every year the kids make a batch of reindeer food and store it in a special container until Christmas Eve. It's just oatmeal and edible glitter and it gets sprinkled all over our front lawn on Christmas Eve so the reindeer get a treat!

Christmas Eve Box

One of our favorite traditions is giving each kid a Christmas Eve Box. Inside the box is a new pair of Christmas pjs to wear that night, a small toy and a snack. Mommy and Daddy get new pajamas, too!

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Christmas Eve Traditions

Every Christmas Eve, we gather with my family for dinner. After church ends, we spend the evening with Grant's family at his Nannie's house. We eat a ton of food, the kids open their Christmas Eve boxes, we exchange some gifts and the kids change into their new pajamas. We make the short drive home late at night, sprinkle the reindeer food outside, set out cookies and milk, put the Santa key on the front door, and rush to bed so Santa can visit our home!

Christmas Morning Traditions

Christmas morning is very relaxed in our home. The kids usually sleep in a bit then rush in to wake us up. We drink coffee or tea and listen to Christmas music while each person gets to open a gift one at a time. The entire process takes over an hour but it's organized and not the least bit chaotic, and every person gets a turn in the spotlight. After the kids open their gifts one at a time, they exchange gifts with each other, then give us the gifts they bought us. Grant and I open a few boxes for them so they're occupied and have our own gift exchange while they play!

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Christmas Brunch

Before we rush off for our Christmas Day visits with relatives, my parents come over for brunch. We exchange all of our gifts then sit down for a big brunch of eggs, bacon, toast and cinnamon rolls. They have been coming over since Dylan was a baby and it's one of my favorite parts of Christmas Day!

Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas

We leave up our Christmas Decoration until the 12th Day of Christmas. It was a tradition for my dad's family, he carried it over to his own family and now we do the same. Many people mistakenly believe that the 12th day of Christmas is on Christmas Day, but that's actually the FIRST day of Christmas. For us, the Christmas season ends on the 12th day of Christmas, which is January 5th.

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 Traditions I Want To Start:
  1.  Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day like my father's family did. It's on December 6th. The kids leave out their shoes on Saint Nicholas Eve and Saint Nicholas fills them with coins and treats that night.
  2. Ride the Polar Express. I always want to do this and the tickets always sell out before I can purchase them. ONE day I will succeed!
  3. Take my girls to the Nutcracker. I went to the Nutcracker when I was a child and I would love to take my girls!
  4. See the lights in the city. We never make it to light up night in Pittsburgh, but the lights are gorgeous and we never take the kids to see them. I want to make this a priority.
  5. Go ice skating at the Ice Rink at PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh. It would be so much fun to do, especially while the lights are up!
  6. Take the kids to a live nativity. We just might make this one happen this year!
  7. Make it a point to go to The Boar's Head Festival each year. I performed in this Christmas festival from the time I was 6 until I was 18. We took the kids 2 years ago, and they loved it, but we haven't gone since. These are done in several churches throughout the country.
  8. Go caroling. We have never taken our kids caroling but I bet they would love it!
  9. Cut our own Christmas Tree. Fake is easier but I love this tradition. It would be fun to have a small one in our kitchen!
  10. Midnight Service. I LOVED the midnight service when I was a child but taking 4 kids to a midnight service just isn't going to happen. Hopefully when they are older!
  11. Take the kids to see the orchestra and choir perform in Pittsburgh. We often listen to classical music in the car so I bet they would love it!


Now that I've shared our favorite Christmas Traditions, I want to hear from YOU! What are your favorite holiday traditions from your childhood or with your own family?

 

Let's Be Friends!

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