Advent Basket


{half of the gifts...I actually had to split them into two baskets}

My bestie's birthday is today...November 30th...25 days between her birthday and Christmas. Seemed like a perfect gifting opportunity to me! I mean who doesn't love to open presents? Wouldn't 25 days of presents be super fun? Also, we used to see each other almost every day (big perk of working together). Now...not so much! This seemed like the perfect opportunity to be able to leave her little goodies each day (yes, I have a habit of impulse buying for both of us).

So yesterday I delivered her 25 little gifts...I can't tell you what they are and ruin the surprise (although my inquisitive friend may have already touched, shaken & guessed at quite a few of them already) but each day is something fun for sure. Some little, some handmade, some simple, some extra special...but all meant to remind my bestie how much I love her!

Happy Birthday Tracie!!!

{photo switch! ahh, much better!}

Where Did I Find Olivia - Volume Two

This girl is trouble...always on the move and always figuring things out that we wouldn't expect. We've found her taking charge & acting grown-up a few more places since my last post.

Arriving at the back door with her hat on and some friends for the car. How could I say no to that smile?


However this time she's too embarrassed to show her face...caught in the act. I missed the great shot though...I had walked in and found her wrapped up in toilet paper!


Study group? The Breakfast Club?


A little tough to see in these photos, but Liv goes crazy when she hears water running in the bathtub. This time she started stripping down but got her shirt caught behind her head.



Going through my purse (that I accidentally left on the floor while I moved some things in the kitchen). When Liv saw me taking this photo, she pulled my phone out of the purse and brought it to me as if she was doing me a favor.


Yes, she turned on the tv and then snuggled up on the couch clutching the remote (unfortunately for her, I believe a sports show was on).


It was not time to brush teeth, but for some reason Liv is really into having clean teeth (and she hasn't even visited our beloved Dr. Ric).


I can only imagine what antics she'll be up to now that our Christmas decorations have entered the scene! Fingers crossed that presents stay wrapped and ornaments un-broken.

Stop the Madness!


{image via Digital Trends}

I have a couple friends (yes, I'm talking about you Carrie and Jackie) who treat Black Friday as a high holiday! As a recovering lifelong retail worker, I treat it as a day of rest. Even if I wasn't in a recovery program for the things I witnessed in my days working open to close on this crazy day, I think I would still avoid it. I mean seriously? I don't get the fun.

Are you looking for some awesome ideas for Saner Gift Giving? My friend Rachel has been doing an awesome series over at her blog Cream City Green. I urge you to grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy reading ways you can bring cheer this holiday season (without clawing your fellow man out of the way for a doorbuster sale)!

Thankfulness


{Jack's list: my family, books, baseball; EJ's list: dancing, my school, pb&j; Liv's list (created by her siblings): cheerios, kisses, water}

What are you thankful for? Top to bottom, big to small, lifelong bonds to simple pleasures...there is just so much to be thankful for!!!

I suggest that today you take some time to make your own list of thanks. Don't forget the small stuff or the people who truly matter. And while your at it, but sure to give lots of hugs and say lots of "I love you"s!

Thank you to Auntie Tracie for the awesome shirts and reminder! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Margarita Salt Scrub



I just came home from an awesome vacation with some great friends. While I wish I could have brought home the warm weather and bright sun, I have a quick "recipe" to help bring some summer to your shower!

Margarita Salt Scrub
1 cup fine sea salt
2 ounces olive oil
3/4 ounce white tequila
juice of one lime

Mix together in a large bowl until salt pretty much absorbs the liquid. Store in a air-tight container (I used a half pint canning jar which held exactly this recipe).

To use, scrub on skin in a circular motion. When done, rinse off excess oil and your skin should be super soft. But do not use on cracked or sunburned skin (ouch)!

We are thankful for...Special Mail



The student we sponsor, Jorge Antonio, sent us this awesome drawing along with his report card! Pretty cool huh?

She may not have a lot of words...

but she sure knows her old school Sesame Street!

I cannot lie...


{image from & card available at just jenn designs}

Need I say more? LOVE this card!

Seeing with her heart


{Livie is at top left with the blond hair, EJ is bottom left with the black hair, I don't show too well in this pic but I am top center right below "My family" with the orange hair, Matt is top right, and Jack is bottom left...look for the blue eyes and yellow face outline}

EJ brought home this drawing from school of our family. At first I didn't see everyone in it, but after careful examination and talking to EJ about it, I realized that she worked very hard to capture each member of our family. We all have our correct hair colors (well as she sees it) and length. She may have even put in the ridiculous moustache that Matt is growing right now (but that's a story for another time)...then again that might be Jack's hair.

I just think it's incredible how well she "sees" our family. Everyone around her actually... In true middle child form, she is always the peace-maker, always trying to make & keep everyone happy. But she is also the one who notices everything around her...especially things about the people she loves.

The other day our Thankful Chart item for the day was WORDS and we were each to pay a compliment to 3 people outside of our family. Because it was people outside our family, we talked about it at night to do for the next day. I forgot to remind everyone before school the next day, so the results were not great. Jack forgot, Matt forgot, I remembered but didn't see anyone who wasn't in my family, but EJ? Well, EJ gave two compliments at her school without even remembering she was supposed to (she told one teacher she liked her shoes "they had fancy jewelry on them Mommy!" and another that she liked her shirt because it was pink), because that is what she does. She notices things about the people she loves and tells them about it too!

This week EJ taught me to open my eyes a little wider and to share the things I see with the people I love.

The Better Gift List

I am 100% a pen and paper list-maker...no question about it! But with a certain little boy of mine getting older (reading and snooping habits developing more every day) something had to be done to keep his little eyes and hands off my Christmas lists.


Enter the Better Gift List app...I tried out 3 lists and it completely won me over! You enter in the gifting "event" as well as the date needed by and budget & you are ready to shop.



Then as you come up with ideas and as you shop, you enter gifts under the event. The app tracks how much you have spent, how many gifts you still need to purchase and what items you already have purchased.

{all photos via the itunes store}

I've loved having my list with me no matter where I am (because let's face it, I'm never without my phone) and I've also loved it for "balancing" the gift quantities and price points between the 3 kids. It's so simple when I have the totals all together in one place.

I still have the big notebook with the master Christmas list, but I know I will use this method more and more (especially for my top secret gift-giving).

Little boys, Big dreams...

Jack's friend came up with a big idea. He was going to bake cookies, sell them and raise money for kids who don't have food. Kids who live in a garbage dump in Guatemala City...$14 could feed them for one week. When Jack heard the news he was immediately interested in "helping" Jackson. Business got so big he ended up opening a satellite bakery of his own.

In one week, these boys raised $375 to feed hungry children. These boys are seven years old...and my heroes! I'm beyond proud to bake 5 gazillion cookies to help their efforts!


And my baby girl is more than happy to clean up my mess...next year she can help with the baking too.

Donate A Turkey!

If you're a local friend, click here to donate a turkey to a family in need this Thanksgiving. Then join us in checking out the Turkey Ticker as often as possible to watch that number grow!


{We're going tomorrow and Jack is very concerned it will just read 2!}

Pumpkin Toss

We can't just be a normal family who puts the pumpkins in with the leaf pile to be taken away. No...we have to smash them in the street first! Matt had wanted to bring a baseball bat into the situation (originally I imagined pumpkin death Office Space fax machine-style), but they were much too squirrel-eaten/moldy for batting practice.

The boys took their work very seriously!






After three tosses, this was as bad as the pink pumpkin ended up. The squirrels & chipmunks didn't touch it either. Looks like no more carving for us...spray paint it is! (or maybe we can carve and then spray paint? Guess we'll have to hatch a plan for next year!






And when it was all done, EJ made Matt sweep up the street so "people can drive their cars again!"

The Easiest Donation You'll Ever Make

Do you like to read to your kids? Would you love it if by reading to your kids, other children received books? Seriously...it's that simple!



My friend Sherri (awesome mom to EJ's buddy Dario) recently turned me on to this great web site, We Give Books. Their tag-line is "Read A Book. Give A Book." and it truly is that simple. The site has an online library of children's books (not a vast amount, but new titles are added/rotated often). You choose a book, read it to your children and a book is donated to a child in need through the site. Over 90,000 books have been donated so far! I know it sounds too good to be true, but all the details can be found on the How It Works page.

I know this site is going to be a hit in our family. The girls love sitting at my desk looking at my photo screensaver, so seeing books big on the screen will be great for them too. Jack was impressed that it actually looked like you were turning the page as you read. And I really like that the books are separated by age groups, so I can easily switch from a word book for Liv to a picture book with the big kids. And think about traveling with kids...instant books to read at bedtime!

Please join us! Go here, sign up, and start reading! Anyone want to start a reading group with us? Join the Pass the Cereal Reading Group here.

We are thankful for...Family Nights



Tonight that meant a special playroom showing of Marmaduke, which had the perfect balance of music and animals to keep Olivia seated for about an hour. Then not so much...

But she did come back to do some more of her signature synchronized dancing with big sister EJ. These two crack me up!

Reading List Summary - October

The October book list (I even finished my one book!)...

Family List
Goodnight Moon ABC: An Alphabet Book (Margaret Wise Brown)

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink (Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple)

The Earth Book (Todd Parr)
Something To Do (David Lucas)
Elmer and the Hippos (David McKee)

I Want to Be... A Chef (Stephanie Maze)
Mouse Count (Ellen Stoll Walsh)
Mouse Paint (Ellen Stoll Walsh)
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean (Kevin Sherry)
Yo-Yo Man (Daniel Pinkwater)
Ice Cream Larry (Daniel Pinkwater)
People of Corn (Mary-Joan Gerson)

Smudge (Julie Sykes & Jane Chapman)
Lemonade for Sale (Stuart J. Murphy)

Tiger-Tiger, Is It True? (Byron Katie & Hans Wilhelm)
Superhero Max (Lawrence David)

Those Shoes (Maribeth Boelts)
If You Lived Here You'd Home By Now (Ed Briant)
Totally Uncool (Janice Levy)
Night House Bright House (Monica Wellington)
I Want To Be A Zookeeper (Daniel Liebman)
Soccer (Paul Joseph)

Too Many Frogs! (Sandy Asher)
I Can Be Anything! (Jerry Spinelli)
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Green (Keith Baker)
I Need My Monster! (Amanda Noll)
My Garden (Kevin Henkes)

Barry, The Fish with Fingers (Sue Hendra)
My Brother Charlie (Holly Robinson Peete)
A Fabulous Fair Alphabet (Debra Frasier)

Mom and Dad Glue (Kes Gray)
Good-bye Bully Machine (Debbie Fox)

Jack's List
Magic Tree House #12: Polar Bears Past Bedtime (Mary Pope Osborne)

Dinosaur Cove: Attack of the Tyrannosaurus (Rex Stone)
Yao Ming: NBA Reader (John Hareas)
The High-Rise Private Eyes #2: The Case of the Climbing Cat (Cynthia Rylant)
Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
Emily's First 100 Days of School (Rosemary Wells)
Fishing for Sunfish (Robert Bartram)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (Beverly Cleary)
Animal Babies: Insects (Rod Theodorou)
Spark the Firefighter (Stephen Krensky)

Ramona Forever (Beverly Cleary)

Mom's List
Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)

We are thankful for...Dad



Big surprise here, but the kids picked Matt to be the first to receive our special thanks and have his chart day. The kids worked together and made him this card with a letter inside about how much they love him (and each drew a picture in crayon too).

Then I made a Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, corn casserole, potatoes) which kind of happened by accident, but worked out well to have a big family dinner. I also made some pumpkin blondies since I ate all of the ones Jackie gave me. Mine look especially orange, but I promise you it's just horrible lighting due to the complete darkness outside at 6pm (ugh!).


After dinner the kids split up...I would read to one or two of them and Matt was able to play age-appropriate games with the others. Given that those games included Lucky Ducks and Jenga, I'd say Matt took one for the team there!

The kids were really great about paying Matt compliments, telling him how glad they were that he was home (he has class Monday & Tuesday nights), and giving lots of hugs! The other special thing we did was this list on the chalkboard door of reasons we are thankful for Daddy. The kids came up with all of them (well, except for the "he's cute"...that was mine) and I think they had some great ways to tell their Daddy how thankful they are for all he does!

{I do have horrible handwriting, but I would like to point out that I was writing with sidewalk chalk here!}

TCB...well, the baby steps version

I finally hung the longer pennant banner up in the office. It really brightens the room (and added an additional "pattern" for Jack to count for his math homework yesterday too)!




And the great kitchen radio search is over! Thanks to Christine for the awesome suggestion...this new guy has joined us and I love it! Despite the fact that it can attach to my iphone or play a cd (and has 5 radio presets), it has only played one station so far. What can I say? We're set in our ways!

{If I ever start taking care of business for real, you may even see a painted kitchen wall here!}

Thankful for Voting!

Yes, we are also thankful for the right to vote! We voted yesterday (due to Matt's crazy schedule) and we encourage everyone to get to the polls today!



Our favorite radio station has created an awesome listing of online resources regarding voting, contacting or tracking your elected officials, issue research, influence trackers and more. Everything you might want to know right at the click of your mouse! Thanks guys!

Now get out there and vote my friends!!!