Starbucks Gift Card Giveaway Part 2

Seriously you guys? No one has any ideas for me? I know someone out there has a perfect idea for me, so please, please, please...let's see some thoughts here people!! :-) If you don't step up, Matt is threatening to ask Santa to bring her a car seat (could anything be more pathetic?).

So let's mix it up a bit...Everyone who enters will be put in a random drawing for a $10 gift card from Starbucks (you know you're interested...the holiday drinks sound awesome and I don't even drink coffee!). I'll pick a winner on Saturday the 5th.

To enter...please comment below with a gift idea for the following kid...
-baby girl, 9 months at Christmas
-youngest of 3 kids (who were all spoiled terribly by their family & my friends)
-has no real clothing or toy needs
-gift should be in the $50-75 range
-can be any category...need, want, toy, learning, something to do, keepsake...we just need an idea or two.

PS Angie Kelly is already entered (and is my hero) for actually giving me an idea on the last post! :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful for a few days of this...

with these gorgeous ladies!

And returning to this...

and giving hugs to these beautiful kiddos (and Daddy of course)!

I am truly blessed! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(jack's school project...he chose the things he was thankful for on his own...i think he said it quite well!)

One talented bestie!

Remember this beautiful photograph?

Well, we were featured here and there are many more beautiful pics to be seen!

Click here if you want details on how to get gorgeous pics of your children too!

Teacher Gifts

I think buying gifts for teachers (be it for Christmas or end of the year) is one of the harder gifts to figure out. I mean if you're looking for a winner, definitely avoid apples & mugs right?

Well, last year I gave Jack's teacher a cool necklace that said "teach" and had an apple charm from The Vintage Pearl (but I swear it was cute) and this year I'm giving mugs! Worst advice giver ever!

Anyway, I decided to embrace the teacher theme this year, but of course try to spin it cooler! I started with an initial mug and filled it with a ton of kinds of Hershey kisses (hugs, dark chocolate, caramel, hugs). She has to like candy right? Then I had gotten this cool red patent pencil case from Pottery Barn Kids on super clearance last year (so of course picked up like 8...just in case). So what do you fill a pencil case with? Pencils, sharpener & an eraser right? In this case the pencils are makeup pencils with their own sharpener and the eraser is really a fun lip balm I found here. I hope she likes it!

Oh and Jack's teacher right now is a long-term substitute filling in for his main teacher who is on maternity leave for a few months. So I had to get gifts for both right (I mean she does come back right away in January and Jack loves her too)? So here is her mug (the initials are all so different in style...very cool)!

Not in the mood for searching down a bunch of stuff for the teachers on your list? I highly recommend coffee shop gift cards (what teacher doesn't need caffeine) and mall or movie theater gift certificates. I like to go more basic/general for Christmas, but then try to come up with something more personal for an end-of-the-year gift...I'll keep you updated!

Mama Mittens

These could be the cutest things ever...everyone stays safe and everyone's hands stay warm too. Now if they could just figure out something to help me keep the baby's mittens on...

Thanks to My Mom Shops for the heads up!

Simple gifts

Finding good gifts for your kids? Not so easy right? We try to keep things fairly simple in our house...Santa brings the kids a big toy/thing, so our gift is a savings bond (I know we're crazy like that) and one other thing (this year I'm also making something for each kid in addition to their one thing).

Last year their "one thing" was a coupon book of experiences. The things in the book were mostly things we do already (game night, walk for ice cream, sledding, trip to the zoo, etc.) with a few special things mixed in (trip to the Shedd Aquarium, camping in the backyard, Milwaukee Wave game, paint your own pottery) and a couple things that would be first time experiences (fly a kite, movie for EJ, batting cages for Jack). Jack and EJ each got a book and when they wanted to do something from the book, they would tell us and we would schedule it immediately. Not necessarily do it immediately, but schedule it! When completed, they would put a sticker on the coupon. Huge hit!

During the Winter months, the books were great to keep us active and doing things. We left them out where the kids could access them and they came to us with ideas all the time. During the summer, we definitely let them go a bit, but I just went through them again this week and we actually did the majority of the summer activities in the books! Each kid has 4 unused tickets at this point (J-batting cage, build a snowman, fly a kite, beach day; EJ-build a snowman, Midwest Twisters, petting zoo, beach day)...not too shabby! The best part was that the gift was all about spending time together as a family or parent-kid pairs and, much like our geo-caching, it's not about what we're doing, it's about that time together!

The "books" were pretty easy to make...first about 2 weeks of brainstorming ideas and trying to make the lists even, then searching for clip art images or photographs for each one. Finally I made & cut the tickets, hole punched them, and put them on a binder clip (Jack's has that extra blue spiral clip so we could tell them apart). Easy peasy!

In full disclosure, I should admit that St. Nick visits out house on December 6th (does he come to your house too?) and my kids don't get a lot of candy, so he may spoil them a bit then (don't worry, I'll share pics of their loot).

Also (and this will prove if anyone is still reading at this point), I am stumped on that "fun present" coming from Mr. S on December 25th for Miss Olivia. She has basically everything already because her older siblings were/are spoiled rotten! I'm looking for something in the $50-75 range...should be one thing (or at least a bigger thing with accessories). I'm looking for an idea or two my friends...and I'm please comment away...and if someone can give me an idea that we don't already have...I've got a $10 Starbucks gift card with your name on it! :-)

Kicking off the holiday season

So I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I am truly starting to kick into Christmas mode. I think it's largely due to the fact that I am planning gift-giving early this year so I can buy online, and a lot from etsy, and create some handmade things myself too. Anyway, I am planning to share some gift ideas with you guys over the next few weeks, but...I am also starting to plan our charitable activities and of course had to share those with you too!

Tonight I signed Jack (and myself of course) up to ring the bells/man the red kettle for the Salvation Army. We did it last year and had such a blast! I mean tell me this kid wasn't having fun?

And maybe this year he'll even be able to see over the kettle!

Last year we froze our butts off (but actually were really lucky because the day before was like -40 wind chill) but really we still had an awesome time together! This year we have an indoor gig here (in front of Macy's) from 4-6pm on December 12th (which may mean a surprise appearance by the girls & Dad later in our shift) . Please come out, say hi, and give us your change! Please!!!

And if you can't make it (or aren't local) please consider clicking the pic below and donating to Jack's online red kettle. You can watch his progress (if the widget placement goes well) on the sidebar...

Interested in volunteering yourself? It's super easy to do (you sign up online)...just click here if you are in the greater Milwaukee area to learn more.

We did it!

100 miles in 30 days...done! Yay!!!

I'm very proud of myself...I only missed 2 days of the 30 (and paid for those misses the day after). The whole thing wasn't about weight loss, it was really about getting me moving every day and sticking with it (well a bit about getting back "in shape" too). It worked well...and my clothes are fitting much better these days too (yay!).

Jack was my toughest coach (he followed me to the basement yesterday to make sure I got my procrastinating butt down there) but was also SO proud of me! I'm planning to do something again with him soon where both of us can be involved...have to brainstorm!

And lest you think these babies are being hung up for good? Not so much...

My friend Jackie (why did I become friends with a personal trainer? hee, hee) has challenged me to a string of tough (for me) treadmill workouts this week and also her gym started a Biggest Loser-type thing today. It runs through Jan 6th and the idea is to stay at the same weight or lose a pound or two while going through the holidays (and all the parties & food). I thought why not play along from the sidelines, so I weighed myself this morning (and thanks to all the yummy food at Tiffany's this weekend, I'm 2 lbs up from last Friday, so I've got that going for me!) and I'm going to try to stick with the exercising & see what happens! As my friend Sue said last week, I'm "not afraid of eating," so I've got to keep up with the exercising to combat my horrible diet, right? :-)

Turkey art

So I know in the last post you were all thinking "thankful for turkeys? seriously?" Let's face it, we all need an easy one or two if we're doing thankful projects every day for a month, right?

So today was thankful for turkeys day which meant a little turkey art to get the day started. We did traditional traced hand turkeys and also fingerprint turkeys to mix it up a little bit! Here are the big kids hard at work.

EJ's masterpieces...

And Jack's lovely art too...

This evening we delivered the meal we made for our cousins yesterday when we pulled the "thankful for cousins" card. Sure they have a new baby & I was planning to take them a meal anyway, but the kids don't know that and they sure felt special shopping and cooking for the girls! We've completed 9 cards so far and honestly the kids have really enjoyed each and every's looking like we'll be repeating this one next November.

Giving thanks...

I love November and really trying to instill thankfulness in the kids for all the many blessings that we have. We truly have so much, but I like to concentrate on the little things or the things that are important to kids hoping it might hit home a little easier. Last year we did a thankfulness garland of leaves and the kids really had a great time with it, so I wanted to do something similar but different (honestly, I wasn't looking to cutting out all those leaves again on November 4th).

So do you see those small pieces of paper in the front bowl? Those are fall leaves, cut out of construction paper by Jack, that we can write things we are thankful for on.

Then we use a glue stick and put them here (it's nice to have a little help on these projects from Mr. Jack & his writing adds an awesome touch). It looks bare now, but I'll post it at the end of the month when it's all full with leaves too!

And then I wanted to take the thankful idea one step further too (and bring back the garland idea). I saw this on a blog (sorry not sure which) and made my own little cards to use. Jack filled in the thing we were thankful for and I added an activity...some give back, some are helpful to us, and some just celebrate the thing we are thankful for (I'll put the list at the bottom of the post).

The first card we picked was "my home" and it asked us to organize something as a family. We chose the much needed winter coats, snow pants & hats/mittens/scarves.

Now I'm sure you are thinking this must be the "before" photo, but sadly no. Be glad I didn't give you a before photo cause it was scary! Everything was in 4 different places (the worst being most of the coats being stored in my tiny office) and not findable (case in point, Jack lost his our house!). Now everyone has their own hooks, a basket to put their hats & mittens in, and a place for boots too. It's in our front entry too, so totally out of the way! Yay!

We're just getting started on both projects (about a week now) but they are shaping up nicely and everyone is having fun with them! Hope you all have time to remember what you are thankful for this month!

The list of cards:
My Home - clean or organize something together
Books - visit library and check out fun books
Legs - go do something active outside
Sisters - show them i love them by helping with a chore & playing a game together
Teachers - make them a card & bring them a treat
Food - try a new food and donate food to people that are hungry
Cousins - make a care for them or invite them to dinner
My Dad - give him a hug, write him a note & do a chore for him
Hands - work on an art project
Seasons - go on a nature walk & collect leaves
My Mom - give her a hug, write her a note & do a chore for her
Neighbors - rake their leaves, pull weeds or make them a surprise treat
Eyes - watch a special movie together
Teeth - brush my teeth really well & floss too!
Turkey - make fun hand turkeys to decorate our house
Brothers - show them i love him by helping with a chore & playing a game together
My Kitchen - help with the dishes
Ears - go on a listening walk or have a dance party
Treats - make & deliver a treat to someone
Grandmas - call or make cards for them both
God (although there is a slight spelling error/cross out on our card) - say a prayer of thanks
Toys - pick some of my toys to give to kids who don't have any
Computers - send an email to someone & send them a photo too!
Family - do something as a family...a game, hike, activity

I'm looking for a dare to be great situation!

Anyone who knows me knows why I am grinning ear to ear at this and dying to share it with you! Best DVD launch idea ever...the Lloyd Dobbler mob invades nyc!

big thanks to word to your mother for the heads up on this!

I LOVE Say Anything...I have no idea when I saw it first, how many times I have watched it or how many more times I will see it, but I have a feeling I will always love this movie! I seriously quote this movie 150 times a day...without even thinking about it ("not in my ear!" and "the red line is there for a reason" are very easy to spout out with my kids around). In fact I had about 6 different ideas for the post title and felt badly just choosing one. I mean it's not like I have a problem or anything, but I am keeping my Christmas gift ideas is my Say Anything notebook (fashioned from an old VHS tape cover) and proudly wear my Lloyd Dobler t-shirt whenever I can (thanks Tracie!).

Check out the trailer's cheesy, but it has a lot of the "great moments" & reminded me of my love. Hope it does the same for you...cause you've all seen and loved this movie, right? I'd really like us all to continue being friends! :-)

Visit to Uncle D & Auntie Alice's House

So yesterday Jack said he wished he could move somewhere else...where he could have fun! Now sure it was a bad Monday morning where everyone could have used more sleep, but he did just have the time of his life the day before playing baseball, wrestling, making cookies, etc. with his Auntie & Uncle. Alice had borrowed my camera for head-shots and when I was uploading her shots yesterday, there were some extras too. Seems little Miss EJ had a great time too!

Park time


80's Queen

Keeping on track

So about six months ago I had a baby...and along with that comes A LOT of unwanted weight! Knowing that this was my last pregnancy, I wanted to get rid of that weight asap. So as soon as I could, I started doing everything I could! I worked really hard and the weight did come off pretty fast. But along with that weight comes a very distorted body...I now fit in a lot of clothes I never had before because I suddenly was a rectangle shape (instead of the usually dreaded pear shape I'd grown accustomed too) and I missed having a waist!

I started running in the mornings before the kids woke up, but what happened was I would stay on track for about 3 days, skip a day, skip another thing you know it's been two weeks with no running and I'm actually worse off than when I began. I wasn't sure what to do to stay on track.

Get a running buddy? Nope, it's just not for me. I'm not a particularly fast runner and to be honest, the treadmill keeps me honest. There is no way to take a shortcut or walk for awhile unnoticed on that baby (plus I don't like being cold running outside).

My hubby? Not the motivator I need! In fact, he has always supported my heaviest, at my lightest, and everywhere in between. Awesome quality for a husband...not so great for a motivator.

Enter this guy...

I can you not stay on track with this guy training you? Seriously though...I should have done this ages ago! I set a running goal that would force me to run everyday (100 miles in 30 days) and Jack made me a chart. Every day he asks how many miles I ran and crosses them off. I missed two mornings and he made me feel so guilty, that I ran during naptime!

Of course he is also my greatest cheerleader! I missed a day last week (I'll never do that again as I'm still recovering) and had to make up my mileage on Saturday...that meant a 7 mile run. He was SO proud of me when I finished!!!

So we're halfway through and I'm pretty much on track to meet the goal (photo above is old...I've done 53 miles in 16 days). I'm not looking to lose more weight (although it's fine if I do)...I just want to get my regular body shape back (it's not great or anything, but it's what I'm used to). And honestly, most days I get on the treadmill because I want Jack & I to meet our goal.

Now I just need an idea for our next training's been too much fun working with Coach Jack to stop!

Family Day 2009

"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."
-Desmond Tutu

photo courtesy of the amazing tsjphotography...aka our beloved Auntie Tracie

We have been blessed beyond words. And I smiled extra big this morning when EJ said, "Daddy, I'm going upstairs with MY mommy!" Right back at you my beautiful daughter...