Monday, November 20, 2017

Gift Ideas Galore

For the little girl who loves babies:
These books are Janey's favorites:
Little Mommy
The New Baby
Baby Listens
This is a good little baby doll for very little girls (I bought this for Janey when she was two) as it is small:
Corolle Calin Baby Doll

Bigger girls:
I can't resist the packaging and quality...
...but I don't really think a little girl gives a hoot what "brand" a doll is, there are many affordable options like these for under $35.
Melissa and Doug 12" Jenna Doll
Berenguer 15" Baby Doll with Gift Set

Set of four flannel receiving blankets (only $8)  Janey uses these all the time for her babies.
A front pack carrier.
A stroller: Patrick and Janey both loved to push a little stroller for our walks.

For the little girl or boy who loves crafts:

Play dough recipe found here (can be packaged up cute in air tight containers.)
A large bucket of cookie cutters.
Real rolling pin.
Pink Roses / Flowers - Childs / Kids / Mini -  PVC / Oilcloth Apron - Wipe clean - Childs apron - waterproof apron

A child size apron (these oil cloth Etsy ones are so cute!)


For basic art supplies we use:
Pip-Squeek Markers
Colored Pencils
Drawing Books-  (These are great-Usborne Drawing Books.)
Paper Cutter: This is a favorite item for all kids-obviously be careful as the blade is super sharp but covered-I started letting my kids play with this around 3 when I knew they would be careful.
Construction Paper
Tracing Paper  (So good for learning to draw and hand/eye coordination.)
Clipboard for tracing paper. (Don't forget to show them how to tape down tracing paper so it doesn't slip, or if tracing from a book use clips.)
Washable paints.
Set of real brushes. (they need decent brushes!)

Activity books:
Usborne sticker books are very nice.
Melissa and Doug sticker books are big hits here, particularly this one and this one.

A homework box is a great idea! Some of the art supplies above, with a notebook and paper in a clear box.  Also these stencils are used here often, (these stencils are super neat for kids!) and envelopes and stickers from the dollar store for notes.

Crafts for older kids:
We loved Shrinky Dinks jewelry, or this kit. 
And this paper fashion set-Abbey LOVED this.
A super cute clay charms kit.
String art for boys or girls-someone is getting this, this year.
Friendship bracelet kit-a classic.
The boys LOVED their rubber band kits.

I think this is SO cute, I remember making these as a kid:
Pom pom pets.

For pretend play around the house:
This grocery cart.
Janey loves this cash register.
This kitchen. (warning: lots of pieces to put together!!! but so cute and sturdy when finished)
We have this food and kitchen set: Hape - Playfully Delicious - Gourmet Kitchen Starter Play Set
We love this cute tea set.
Cutting food and the sandwich maker are a favorite also.
I also found that the reusable kid's gift bags are great pretend grocery bags.

She also might need a purse and a wallet, the more pockets the better!

Janey sets up a "store" all over the family room and I sit at the register, she shops and I ring and put in the bag and repeat, repeat, repeat.

This Fisher Price dollhouse has been a HUGE HUGE hit for Janey this year.  This dollhouse and so many accessories were borrowed from some cousins who have outgrown them and she has played, and played, and played hours with this set.  

For the boy who loves football and soccer and every other sport:
This basketball hoop is a huge hit and takes your living room decor to the next level (a trade off for burned off boy energy, so worth it!  And ours is still going strong with teenage boys playing on it.)
These gloves.
This football.
Kicking tee.
This play white board.
These football guys (or soccer guys and baseball guys and hockey guys).

Favorite sports magazine and books:
Sports Illustrated for Kids. (my boys love the cards that come with every issue.)
Big Book of Who All-Stars.
Sports Illustrated What Are The Chances?
Childhood of Famous Americans Sports Guys books,

For the builder:
All Lego building sets.  My boys have loved anything Lego, especially Lego City building sets. If you start with a big basic box, I would suggest this Lego idea book and one or two base plates.

For little guys the Duplos are great.  We have a huge basic set, than a Thomas Train set, which is discontinued, but they do still have a "generic" train set and track.
Also for little guys, the Build A Road has been a favorite.
Kapla blocks are awesome for ALL ages. 

For the mom who loves outside toys:)
All time favorite is a basic scooter. (Ours has gone through so many boys and jumps and crashes and still is as good as new.)  This three wheel scooter is super fun and is used often.
These rip riders are huge hits and still are played with consistently-they have been crashed into, and once I ran one over that was left in the driveway-miraculously they survive.
For littler guys this plasma car is great.

For the reader:
A headlamp for reading at night.
I agonized over getting this Kindle for Andrew when he was in 5th grade but I love it-he uses it a lot (but still reads "real" books also.  It allowed him to keep up the pace of his ferocious book appetite without driving me mad with library visits-we've never paid for a book either-all rented downloads through the library.)
All of our favorite books are in the sidebar.
Have you read Where the Red Fern Grows to your children?  Or they can read it if old enough, it's our favorite.
Also there is a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid out they've been begging me to get.

For the teenage boy who offers up no gift suggestions ever:
A long board.
Jansport back packs have a lifetime guarantee (I know this because I sent one back and they reimbursed me!)
Gym bags.
These head phones work as well as the expensive ones, or so I've heard.
These maze puzzles appeal to all ages, and are irresistible for bored kids (and adults)...we have four of them!

For the teenage girl who loves makeup:
This eye shadow.
Or even more eyeshadow.
Brush set.
Remember caboodles?  If you were a teen in the 80's you do.  We couldn't find them but this art organizer works just as well. (Abbey bought this for college.)
This nail polish.

College kids:
Coffee cups (Anthro always has cute ones, but Janey and I found one just as cute at the Dollar Store. :) or travel cup.
A phone sticker that holds cards.
I love this Mary necklace-I have one and Abbey will also.
A super soft blanket (this one comes in tons of colors) for their dorm.
Nice warm socks (boy and girls).
A soft fluffy robe for girls.  (Aerie also has good ones but wait for a sale!)
Slippers for guys.  (Isaac wore these as shoes in college-also Land's End has great sales.)

Let me know if you have questions or if I missed an age group and you need help.

Tons more ideas all updated this year and for all ages here.
21 Years of Our Best-Loved, Most-Used Quality Toys!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Gratitude is one of the shortcuts 
to finding peace of mind and happiness inside.
No matter what is going on outside of us,
there's always something we can be grateful for.

Barry Neil Kaufman

A Wonderful Movie and Some Books For Kids

This movie is so so good.  It is wonderful-a wonderful message, talented acting, beautiful character development.  I highly recommend it as all of us parents know-this is rare for Hollywood!

It is based on this book, which all my kids, but Janey and Patrick (who will start right after he finishes the book he is reading now) have read - one of their favorites.

Patrick (3rd grade) is reading a Tim Green book right now and loves it-it actually mentions the book Wonder in it, so he was eager to see the movie as everyone else was.

This year for Christmas we are doing something I've always wanted to do to simplify my life and set clear expectations-"something to wear, something to play with and something to read".  The one that will have me practicing restraint, but is so fun, is choosing the "to read" for each of them.  Patrick will be getting another Tim Green book I think.  Last year his dog book was such a huge hit with him (and everyone)-maybe I'll go that route again.  I'll have to decide.

My high schooler has had this book saved in my cart for months, waiting for Christmas-that's easy enough! It looks beautiful-another book we will all enjoy, great for nature lovers and those interested in photography.

Janey-she has memorized every Little House book in our well-worn set and we have a couple more to make that set complete.  I adore the illustrations-and have read these to all of the kids again and again. Little House never gets old, and I love collecting sets of books.

My eighth grader is asking for his final hard-back Harry Potter to complete his set.  Big thick hard back books with beautiful dust covers all lined up on a shelf-heaven! :)

For my college/career minded older children, I loved this book so much-this is on the top of the list of all the choices I have in mind-it just creates such good habits for a purposeful, grateful life, and to use our God-given talents every day.  It has made a difference in my life and I think even if they aren't motivated to do the little routine every morning, it's message sets high expectations.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Cutest Personalized Gift Idea

My friend's daughter started a booming business (while in college!) and is selling these cutest bags, and pillows and onesies like hotcakes. I love giving gifts like this-something different and original, handmade and meaningful to the recipient.

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It is always a challenge to find a gift that is unique and meaningful, but with this business, you can find affordable gifts that are sure to evoke memories, motivations, and moments.

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A little over a year ago, I shared this young entrepreneur who was just starting to grow her business, Anne Cate. It has been quite a year of growth for this college senior. Anne Cate began out of a passion for creating and has scaled immensely.

Anne Cate’s skyline accessories make the perfect gift. With the classic skyline silhouette design in a variety of over 60 different cities, these accessories are unique and meaningful. Chicago, Detroit, Florence, St. Louis, Portland, New York, and so many more.

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Each product is created by hand by both owner Anne Skoch and by Esperanza Threads, a Cleveland-based manufacturer that seeks to improve the lives of refugee women who struggle with barriers to employment through sewing training.

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All products are completely handmade in small batches using 100% organic cotton twill and quality materials, all sourced in the US.

This holiday season, gift a product that benefits the community and tells a story. Shop with purpose, with Anne Cate.

Search for your skyline at:

Instgram: @annecate

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

As you create a home, don't get distracted with a lot of things that have no meaning for either you or your family.
Don't dwell on your failures, but think about your successes.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Toddler Tips: Starting Out The Morning Right

This is another little miracle I found over the years in dealing with toddlers.  Sometimes they can easily react to the busyness of the day beginning-we have an agenda as mothers, especially the mothers of many, of things we want to do that day and things that need to get done.  And routines are so important for ALL of us.  But I found that many grouchy, obstinate, whiny toddlers can quickly change to having a great day if we just slow down, even for a few minutes and hold them, hug them, talk to them, or read to them, or set up some little toy for them---almost like they needed to 'touch home base' (literally connect with us through physical closeness) before they set off on their day.  Suddenly the clinginess can stop, and it changes their whole demeanor.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Fun Family Game

"I won!" 

We've found a new game that our family loves!

This is the kind of game a busy 'non-lover of games' mom can play-it's quick and requires no huge direction reading (we've adapted the way we play it depending on who is playing-and it appeals to ALL ages!)  It's a great boredom buster and would be fun for Thanksgiving Day.

The low down:

Basically as quick as one can, you are matching the quantity, shape or color of the card laid in front of you and try to get rid of your cards as quickly as possible.

I am AWFUL at writing instructions-and like I said, we do it differently depending on how many are playing and their ages (with Janey I just do a slow matching game). Here's the lowdown:

Playing the Game

1. Simultaneously players turn over the card that they placed in the center of the table signaling the beginning of the game.
2. Players race to play cards from their hand on either of the piles. In order for a card to be played it must match at least one of the characteristics, color, shape, or count, of the card on which it is being played. For instance a card with four brown stars could be played on any card with brown (color), or on a card with stars (shape), or on a card with four symbols (count).
3. Players may have up to three cards in their hand at a time and refill their hand by drawing from their draw pile.
4. Play continues until one player is completely out of cards from their hand and draw pile.

Winning the Game

The first player that successfully plays all their cards wins BLINK.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Somehow, in our hurry to steer our children toward accomplishment and independence we see to have forgotten what childhood is all about.

Preoccupied with managing their lives, and our own, it is is so easy to lose sight of our children-their tenderness ad innocence, their joyousness their capacity of wonder their hunger for enchantment. 

A touch of magic can reawaken the chidlike spirit in all of us allowing us to revisit, for a time, the secret realm of childhood. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Easy Crock Pot Chili

I have been making this once a week-I make a big batch and then freeze smaller meal-sized containers for me for lunch, or a I give a bunch of them to my older two kids so they have a back-up meal in their own freezers.  It's excellent reheated.

It is mild so the kids aren't dying when they're chowing down. If you like SPICY chili, just add some more chili powder!

1 pound of ground beef, browned and drained
1 26 oz. jar of traditional Prego sauce
2 cans of undrained kidney beans
2 cans of chili-seasoned diced tomatoes
(you can use plain diced tomatoes...just add a little more seasoning to chili!)
2 TBS chili powder
2 TBS cumin

Dump all in a crock pot and mix together.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Serve with chips or crackers, grated cheese and sour cream, sometimes with grilled cheese on the side for non-chili lovers.

PS.  The best thing I ever did was a buy a huge crock pot-well I have every size, but the big one is the one I use the most.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

Our children are fully different creatures than we are, and we are in their lives for a time in order to nurture them, love them, and nudge then in certain directions.

We simply must accept that they are loaned to us for a time and then they are released into adulthood. 

When we believe this, we feel more joy and contentment in parenting them, we simplify our expectations of ourselves regarding parenting, and we experience a welcome levity in our relationships with them.

Meg Meeker

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ten Ways To Raise A Reader

Ten Ways to Raise A Reader
by Gladys Hunt

1. Restrict television watching drastically.

2. Keep the computer under control and where it can be monitored. Don't allow too many hours on the pointless computer games or in chat rooms.

3. Have books and other good reading material within easy reach, an enticement to read.

4. Let your children see you reading.

5. Read books aloud together regardless of age.

6. Talk about books together, play games together.

7. Have well-lit rooms with comfortable chairs that invite reading.

8. Balance activity schedules with reading time. Let your kids know the library is as important as the gymnasium.

9. Encourage reading in bed with good lights to do so.

10.  Visit the library often, and listen to books on tape when traveling.