Santa Visit and Christmas Party

Our neighborhood put on the most fun Christmas party this past weekend. My favorite part was seeing the kids reactions to Santa Claus! haha

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Carson was terrified at first, but eventually warmed up – he even gave him a high five before we left!

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Elizabeth never warmed up! As soon as she sat in his lap, the tears started…and didn’t stop until I snagged her back up.

Paisley loved every minute of it and asked him for real makeup! And a microphone…at least one is on her list!

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There were a ton of activities for the kids – face painting, balloon artist, glitter tattoos, coloring, ornament making – the list goes on! It kept our kiddos entertained throughout the entirety of our time there.

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We ended our time with a little dance party with Santa’s elves. Paisley of course loved it and Carson sat on the sidelines and watched – his go to.

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It is only the start of our Christmas season celebration and I am excited to continue to create memories with our kids. Next up, hot chocolate and touring the city Christmas lights!

~xo~

#LIGHTtheWORLD Update

Hey All! Wanted to drop by real quick and let you know how we are doing on the #LIGHTtheWORLD challenge. It hasn’t been easy to remember, and there may have been a day or two that I slipped as a mom…oops…but we’ve done our best and here is what the last two weeks has entailed.

  • Jesus lifted other’s burdens and so can you
    • Paisley did a great job serving her brother and myself today. She helped me put laundry away and cleaned up Carson’s room
  • Honor your parents
    • Because I love family so much, this one was my favorite! We Skyped my dad and younger brother. The kids love when Nate reads them a story over the computer

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  • Help others see
    • Again, Paisley to the rescue on this day! When we got to dance class, she paid a nice compliment to her teacher, and then everyone else in the lobby. My social butterfly loves every one, especially if they have a pretty dress on!
  • Jesus worshiped and so can you
    • We attended our church service today, as hard as it is sometimes with two kids! The stress leading up to church always is worth it once we actually get there. One day…years from now we will be able to sit and focus throughout the entirety of it, without having to chase a kid around or go on “walk breaks”
  • Jesus healed the sick
    • In her prayers tonight, Paisley added in a special blessing for those who are sick. You can also sign up to be an organ donor here
  • Read the scriptures
    • Brian and I were really good at reading our scriptures, but lately have been slacking a bit. I decided to restart where we left off and have continued it throughout the last week. When I did, this scripture jumped out at me…and it has a little special meaning to Brian and I. Cue soul searching for us! ha.alma-29-3
    • Paisley is a little young to read scriptures, so we opt for My First Book of Mormon Stories and My First Old Testament Stories. We need to snag My First New Testament Stories, too!
  • Jesus fed the hungry
    • Mom failed on this today! I fed my hungry kids…does that count? Ha. But the surprise out of this all, is a girlfriend asked if she could bring us dinner and give us some company. Both our hubbies were out of town, so a little girl time plus play date for the kids was what we both needed. Funny how that works out right??
  • Jesus prayed for others
    • Being consistent in family prayers is something we as a family are working towards. We are really good at saying prayers before dinner and before Paisley goes to bed, but as a whole family, and making them personal are what we need to strive for. Paisley likes to pray before bed and thanks Heavenly Father for the good day she had and if she had a play date. Teaching our kids to give thanks has been an important lesson in our family
  • Visit the lonely
    • On the kids calendar, the task is to say hello to someone new. Paisley has her father’s outgoing personality, so this comes very easily to her. Anyone she sees at the store or at the park gets a nice hello. Carson is following suit, too. I make a point to at least smile to those I pass…it’s a nice start for my introverted self! Ha!
  • Help people walk
    • I laughed out loud at the kid calendar task…it says to shovel someone’s driveway. We live in California…that’s funny. This one was tough for me to think of something meaningful to do. We invited a friend to take a walk around the park with us this morning. Someone who we thought would need nice conversation and some time out of the house.
  • Jesus ministered to children
    • There were a lot of options with this one. We chose to focus on the one-on-one activities with each child. This is something I think is so important to do with each of our children, just to help them remain aware of the love we have for them as individuals. Brian and I took Paisley to see “Scrooge”, a Christmas Carol Musical put on at the Oakland Interstake Center. She LOVED it! Singing and dancing…and candy!
  • Jesus taught others
    • One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is make caramel popcorn and brown sugar cookies to pass out to neighbors and friends. Even though this is labeled for the 12th, I will be doing this with my kiddos this weekend! My grandma has passed down the recipe to my mom, who passed it down to me and I am teaching Paisley every year. Plus you get to eat the goodies. Win-win!
  • Show humility
    • I am terrible at letting others know how I feel, so this one was incredibly difficult for me. I usually do so by giving or serving. My girlfriends back home are getting together tonight for a girls’ night, so I sent them a little gift and will Facetime them later tonight. I haven’t always been the best friend, or there for all the events but this is something I am striving to do now and be better at!
  • Jesus taught us to clothe the naked
    • Closet cleaning happened for the kids yesterday. It’s Brian and I’s turn today. The clothes we are not keeping will be donated to those in need. I like to find a non-profit organization that helps lower income families. I feel that if I am getting rid of something I no longer want, why should someone else have to pay for it. If you are in Kansas City, check out Operation Breakthrough. They are a preschool that serves the inner city and HeadStart community of Kansas City. Families and children there do not have to pay for the food pantry, clothing, or house goods. Everything donated is offered to those who need it. Those that work there are truly doing it because they want to. The kids are tough, the family situations are hard, but it is worth it. From the teachers to the counseling staff to the custodial and cooks. Every person plays a part in the positive development of the family and kids they serve. Plus the kids are dang cute! (I may be a bit biased, this place was CRAZY but my heart still desires to be back there helping the kiddos!)

With 11 days left, I will keep working on our family’s #LIGHTtheWORLD challenge (and try to take some more pictures! I’m terrible at that!). The most important thing is that this is fun, and brings us closer as a family, as friends and to our Heavenly Father. I love this time of year and what it represents. HAVE FUN!

PS- You can access the full 25 day calendar here,and the children’s version here from a wonderful blogger named Emilie

~xo~

 

A Night of Lights

Last night was a pretty great, easy family night! We met Brian at the Oakland LDS Temple after work and prepared for our family light night. So fun!

We ate at a place called Sparky’s Giant Burgers, a little hole in the wall place in Oakland that was surprisingly delicious. Their curly fries were the perfect side to all our burgers!

First light stop was the Oakland Zoo. Got there right as they opened and it wasn’t too crowded. There was a cute little light show put on every 5 minutes or so on the meadow with music and matching lights. My little dancer enjoyed every minute. Only a portion of the zoo is open for lights, and the trail winds around the children’s zoo portion, through the open park grass area and back towards the main entrance. We were surprised to see Santa, but it was perfect. Minimal line and neither kiddo cried! Win-win

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Carson was a bit hesitant, but sat right on his lap put his binkie in to refrain from crying and didn’t take his eyes off of him! Santa did get a high five and “bye-bye” when we left. Paisley told Santa she wanted Barbies for Christmas and that Carson wanted Barbies too. ha…she did clarify that he wanted boy Barbies, though.

Next stop was the Oakland LDS Temple. This place is gorgeously lit up during the non-holidays but even more majestic-like this time of year. Every tree and bush has lights running up and through it. There is a nativity set up in the center, highlighting Jesus’ birth, with the temple glowing in the background. It’s perfect. The kiddos loved exploring the temple grounds and checking out the lights. Carson tried to touch every light on his way…every single one. ha.

Enjoy the pictures and hope you have a great Christmas Season! #LIGHTtheWORLD

~xo~

Holiday Gifting Guide

As much as I like to focus on serving others and spending time with family, I can’t ignore the fact that there is somewhat of a focus on gifting. I’ve found a few items that I love, my kids love and the hubs loves to make your shopping that much easier! With less than 4 weeks to get the goodies, hop to it people!

For the kiddos: I’m all about educational items, with a huge emphasis on educational toys right now. I love the fact that the kids play and learn at the same time. Paisley has been a fantastic test kid with a few of these products, and will be a future tester on some others.

  • Magnatiles: I first discovered these when I worked in preschools. These are amazing! With their different shapes and sizes, along with the “magical” magnetic abilities, Paisley can play and build with these for days. We also found a comparable, but less expensive version of these magnetic shape blocks, called Playmags. They work the same way, are compatible with Magnatiles and are a bit cheaper on the wallet!
  • Osmo: This company claims to “take play beyond the screen” and I am excited to try it out. Many kids these days are glued to screens, and this game incorporates math, reading, writing, and imagination into play-learning. Kiddos age 5-12 should look towards the Genius kit. For my 3 year old, we are leaning towards the Creative kit.
  • Boogie Board Play n Trace: My daughter loves drawing and writing, especially on her Magnadoodle. I looked everywhere for an updated one and wasn’t impressed. But we found this beauty at Staples one day and Amazon happens to carry it too! You can even buy different activity packs that enhance the fun (here’s the link to the Numbers and Letters version).
  • Code A Pillar: This little guy is something we have yet to try. Hoping to test it out soon though. Each piece makes him move a certain way (left, right, 90 degree turns, etc). Kiddos can link the pieces together and then create tunnels or a maze to test out their skills. There are expansion packs which can add to the fun and increase the challenge!
  • Latches Wooden Activity Board: Carson is all about unlocking, turning lights on and off, etc. The fun stage with babies (that and the dumping stage! ha). There are ways to make these DIY style, but Brian and I opted for this Melissa & Doug version. So excited for it to come in!
  • Wooden Geometric Stacker: I am digging this stacker. It comes with multiple shapes and colors and is a bit of a puzzle. There are grooves on the pieces that challenge kiddos to fit them just right, so they lay flat. LOVE LOVE LOVE this for Carson!
  •  Poppin Pals: These babies have been around FOREVER, but offer so many skills for the little ones to learn. Cause and effect, fine motor skills, and anticipatory skills. There are a bunch of different versions on Amazon. Check them out.
  • Board Games: There are so many different interactive/cooperative games for young children out there. All teach some version of turn taking, some are color recognition, counting, pattern recognition and memory. Monday night board game play at our house usually includes Memory, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or Frozen Surprise Slides Game

Most of these links will take you to Amazon, so if you have Amazon Prime you can order them today and get them by Thursday! With free shipping! And still in plenty of time for Christmas. And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you are missing out…best investment ever! ha

For the Hubs: Brian is by far the hardest person to shop for. He rarely wants things, and when he does they are usually pricey (the past few years he’s wanted a boat…for real…). I have found a few items he doesn’t have though that will make any guy happy!

  • Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2: He has been looking for a good pair of bluetooth headphones that don’t break the bank. After doing some research and comparing brands, I found these. They rank 2nd to Beats, and have a few knocks on their rating because the noise canceling isn’t “as good” as the Beats version. But coming in less than $250 compared to Beats at almost $400, I opted for these. He couldn’t wait and has tried them out, super impressed so far. (I did order them directly from Plantronics website because they were sold out on Amazon)
  • Dry Cleaning: With 2 kids, one of which still a slobbery mess, Brian gets frustrated when his suits get covered in food or goobers. I decided to treat him this year and get both of his suits dry-cleaned (which should have happened FOREVER ago, but let’s be real…who has time for that??). Go to your local dry cleaner to freshen up those pieces you can’t just throw in the steam cycle
  • Genuine Leather Wallet: Even though this is advertised on my Stella & Dot site, I feel it is masculine and slim enough for any man. I love the black leather paired with the midnight suede. Add a bit of gold detail to finish it off.

For Her: A few things I want or have plus a few anyone will enjoy getting.

  • Diamond Initial Necklace: What girl doesn’t love diamonds? And if yours is a little more edgy, opt for the Black Diamond version. Whether you choose one for her name, her new last name, or get one for each of her kids she will love it. Initial necklace are the latest trend in #momwear, replacing the engravable, or Pandora-type charm bracelet.
  • Genuine Leather Bag: I have two I’m currently loving right now, the Covet Waverly  Bag and the Covet Sunday Bag. Both can be worn two different ways: the Waverly as a clutch. Just remove the strap for a small clutch for fancy evenings. The Sunday Bag as a long crossbody or a short shoulder bag. Just adjust the strap to change the length.
  • Amazon Echo: I love having music playing in the background when I’m cleaning or folding laundry. The Amazon Echo is sleek and responds to your voice. Although she does WAY more than just play music, that is the feature I am most excited about using!
  • Over the Knee Boots: So I have yet to hop on this trend but I SO want to (can a preggers pull off OTK boots??). I love my booties and love my riding boots, but every time I see my girl Shannon (check out her blog here or follow her @shannonwillardson on Instagram) in a pair I am so envious! Here’s her post about her fave pair. PS- If you want fashion advice, you NEED to follow her. Her style is so simple and she uses everyday pieces, which I love.

Obviously this list is not exhaustive, but just a few fun ideas to get those last minute brains going. There are only 13 more days until Christmas, so hop online and do some shopping for those who you love!

Happy Shopping All!

~xo~

#lighttheworld

This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I feel the reason for this is the endless excuse to hang out with friends and family, reminiscing about fun times from the past and the most important reason of all – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In all the hustle and bustle, we tend to forget about the true reason of this time of year. Jesus spent his life teaching and serving. I know that when I am having a hard time, I need to serve. Serving puts all the focus off yourself and completely on the person you are serving.

My church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) is starting a #lighttheworld initiative for the month of December, with an amazing video highlighting the Saviors life.

Along with the video, there is an advent type calendar of ideas to #lighttheworld here. Download and print it out for easy reminders and ideas. Click here to see video examples of each day, too!

My favorite part about this initiative is a kid version of service ideas. My mother messaged it to me and I just had my husband print it out! I’m so excited to pass along the importance of service to my kiddos. Click here to see the 25 SUPER easy and appropriate ideas for children to do, from draw a picture for a parent to writing a thank you note to a teacher. Such a great way to refocus children and our families on what we really should be celebrating this holiday season.

This time is near and dear to my heart, as I am a sucker for family time and game nights. I am making a push this year to be more service oriented and taking the focus off me to put on those who need it. I hope you will join me, even if not in the full blown #lighttheworld initiative, to do something kind for someone else. Focus on the true meaning of celebration, starting with today.

Enjoy! ~xo~