The Adventure Starts Here: November 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How We Countdown to Christmas | A Christmas Pajama Party Announcement

Tomorrow is December 1st.  The official countdown to Christmas begins, that is if you haven't already begun ;)  Christmas is my favorite holiday hands down, and I like to celebrate it all month long.  I actually prefer all the activities and the excitement leading up to Christmas than the actual day.  Noah's at that perfect age where he strongly believes in Santa and is genuinely excited for everything that goes along with it.  Just last week during our bedtime routine of "let's talk about the day", I told him we'd be decorating the house and he had the most excited look on his face.  He then responded with "So Christmas is the next day?".  Nope, sorry bud!   But in the meantime, we have so many fun Christmas things planned and advent calendars to keep us busy!

First up, is the traditional advent calendar.  This will be the third Christmas we've used this advent calendar from Pottery Barn Kids.  We technically had it when we were in the apartment, but we never had a place to hang it, so we saved it for when we moved into the house back in 2014.  While I like that the small pockets stop me from going overboard, it's sometimes hard to come up with 25 things that will fit in each pocket.  The good news is that now that Noah's getting a little older, he'd be happy with getting a piece of candy every single day.  In addition to some mini Milky Ways and Skittles, I found some miniature toys.   We saw Finding Dory this summer, so I was really excited to find a set of mini figurines from the movie.  I think Noah will enjoy getting a new sea creature every few days.  Need more ideas on what to fill the pockets with?  Last year I shared a list of my favorite fillers.  

In addition to the advent calendar, we let Noah unwrap a Christmas book to read each day.  We started doing this the Christmas after Noah had just turned one.  We probably had 10-15 books that year and then continued to grow our collection.  We are now at the point that we get one or two new books each year and get rid of the baby books that we had originally.  This year we added "Tractor Mac Saves Christmas" and "Santa is coming to New Jersey" to our collection.  (Here's a list of all the books we had last year.)  Even though the majority of the books aren't new, Noah loves unwrapping them and reading them each year.  These are books that he doesn't see for the other 11 months of the year, so they are always a welcome surprise.

I number the gifts so we know which book to unwrap each day.  While it doesn't really matter when we read most of the books, if there's an activity that relates to one of the book's theme, I like for Noah to unwrap it on that specific day.  Last year I made numbered tags on the computer and then cut them out using a round scalloped punch.  I was going to do the same this year, but then I found this Advent Calendar Garland Kit at Target and knew the round tags would be perfect for our 25 days of books!  I put the string and clothespins away for a possible future project and just used double sided tape to attach the round tags to the wrapped books.   I really love how it all turned out and I'm so excited to let Noah unwrap his first book!  

One of our newer countdown traditions is the Lego Advent Calendar.  My mom got us our first set last year, and while I had to help Noah a lot, he was so excited to put a new lego kit together each day!  We loved it so much that when I saw this year's version in Walmart back in October, I immediately called my mom!  She had me pick up two of the regular kits for Noah and his cousin Adian.  She also had me pick up the Star Wars and girl version for my other nephew and niece.    

In the past, I've come up with a Christmas activity to do each day.  But this year, instead of scheduling something for each day, I came up with a more simplified "bucket list" of sorts.  We've added a few new activities to our list, but there are also a few traditions that we won't be doing this year.  The Santa Train that we've gone on for the past 3 years has changed ownership and is now a Polar Express.  And while I've heard great things about other Polar Expresses, the train will be the exact same but with much higher prices.  We debated whether to still go, but decided in the end it really wasn't worth the extra cost.  In the past, we've always made a trip into NYC to visit Rockefeller tree and look at all the decorations.  But this year, Noah's cousins are coming for Christmas and staying until New Years, so we opted to hold off and visit NYC with them instead.  So while things will be a little different this year, I'm confident it will still be a fun and festive December!  

While these are more general descriptions of what we have planned, I hope this list can help give your family some holiday inspiration.   

In honor of the Christmas season officially beginning, I wanted to announce a link up that I'm especially excited for!   I always love getting Noah a few new pairs of Christmas pajamas each year.  I'm seriously dreading the day when he says he's too old for this stuff!  Now if I could just talk Chris into wearing matching Christmas onesies on Christmas morning ;) 

Starting on Thursday, December 15th, we'd love for you to share your Christmas Jammies!  Whether it's just your kids or your whole family in matching pjs, we want to see it all!  The linkup will be open from December 15th through the 22nd.  And if you don't have a blog, that's okay!  Simply tag your social media shares with #CHRISTMASJAMPARTY16 !!!

How do you "Countdown to Christmas"???

*affiliate links may be used... see my disclosure for more information

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Evolving Play Date

Ever since Noah was about 6 months old, we've been scheduling regular play dates.  It all started when I joined the MOMS Club.  Play dates with 6 month olds are really kind of cool and definitely more for the moms.  The babies would sit on the carpet and happily play with a  toy, or at most they would crawl a few feet over to grab something new.  All the while, the moms would chat and get some much needed adult interaction.  As the kids grew more mobile and opinionated, play dates became harder.  I remember going to a park to meet up with friends, and sometimes you wouldn't even get to talk to the other moms because your kid had no desire to go where all the other kids were.  Noah never seemed interested in the swings when I wanted him to!  So instead, you ended up following around your new walker making sure they didn't fall off the play structure.  Then there was the stage where your kid would happily play next to the other kids, not with, but next to.  But since they were still so young and their speech so limited, you had to make sure you were always close by in case a sharing, hair pulling, or biting incident needed to be handled.   But it seems that we have finally turned a corner when it comes to play dates.  Now that Noah goes to school, he and his friends are happy to go off and play with each other, often without any assistance from the moms.  They can now communicate well and are able to come to us if a disagreement occurs.  As a result, I am finally able to sit back and chat with my mom friends again!  

With this new found independence, I've begun to tweak how I entertain when hosting these playdates.  It used to be that you just worried about the kids.  I made sure to always have kid snacks on hand and maybe some waters for the moms.  Who had time to eat when you were making sure your 2 year old didn't destroy someone else's house or break a toy.  But now that we get some downtime to actually sit and chat, I've started putting out a little spread for the adults to enjoy.  

While I would love to say that we sit and talk over a glass of wine, most of our play dates are still in the middle of the afternoon.  So instead, I opt to put out some muffins and tea.  It's the perfect balance of showing you cared by taking the time and effort to prepare for your guests but also being super easy.  Chocolate chip muffins that I made from a mix in under a half an hour, a variety of tea bags and some hot water and you are all set!  And with the colder months heading our way, this is the perfect way to beat that afternoon slump.  The kids enjoy playing with each other and you get some downtime before having to prepare dinner!  

And before I know it, I will be dropping Noah off for play dates and not even sticking around!  In fact, we've already hosted a drop off play date with one of our best friends... and it was really successful!  It's crazy how fast they grow up!  

So tell me, what stage are you at with play dates?

Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Becky at BYBMG | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram

Monday, November 28, 2016

Welcome Back Buddy!

It's that time of year again.  When elves start showing up in houses near and far.  Some elves give parents the hope that their kids will be on their best behavior, while others main objective is to entertain with the most creative mischief each night.  This is our second Christmas doing the whole "elf on the shelf" thing and I think I may be even more excited than Noah is.  Last year, we introduced Noah to the whole concept and helped Noah name him "Buddy".  As I explained last year, we don't follow all the "elf rules".  For example, our elf doesn't lose his magic if touched, and we don't mind if Noah touches Buddy.  Noah is very gentle with him and quickly loses interest in playing with him if we let him touch Buddy when he finds him versus making a big deal about it.  We also don't really use the elf as punishment for bad behavior.  While we do like to remind Noah that he should be nice and listen to us because Buddy is watching and reporting back to Santa, our elf won't not come back or move one night because of bad behavior.  Instead, we prefer to use Buddy as another fun way to countdown to Christmas.   Buddy not only moves places each night, but he also has lots of fun while we are asleep. Chris has so much fun coming up with new and unique set ups each day.  We just try to make sure that Buddy doesn't cause trouble or encourage mischievous behavior.  Everything Buddy does is very harmless and a lot of fun. 

To kick off the Christmas season, Buddy the Elf showed up yesterday morning with a little gift.  In a world where kids don't have opinions, I had planned that Noah would spot Buddy, we would make the pancakes together, and then Noah would open his gift as we were eating breakfast.  But once Noah saw that gift, he had no interest in helping until he unwrapped it.  Since it was a minor change in plans, we let him open his present and then continued on with our plans.  

This year we kept it pretty simple with some pancakes and simple toppings (strawberries, marshmallows, and m&ms).  I wanted to make Christmas tree pancakes using these pancake molds, but they were a disaster!  So instead, I stuck to what I know best, and made regular old pancakes, but made them a festive red and green.  One thing I've learned since becoming a mom, it's best to just go with the flow!  

Noah's plate | milk bottle came in this set | pajamas

While I take the lead when we decorate and entertain, Chris was very eager to take control with the ins and outs of Buddy.  So I planned the breakfast, but will leave the rest of it to him.  The elf shenanigans will begin this morning and I'm really excited to watch Noah find Buddy each morning.  Last year I documented all of Buddy's innocent mischief and shared it here and on Instagram.  I plan to do the same this year, and I'd love for you to follow along with my weekly recaps and on Instagram with the hashtag #buddytheelfshenanigans2016 

Does the elf on the shelf come to your house???  Is he mischievous, playful, or just a spy for Santa?

*affiliate links may be used... see my disclosure for more information

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Untraditional Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that we don't seem to have a set plan year after year.  Chris' parents are often away in Cancun, and since I've known Chris we have seemed to do something different each year.  In case you have any interest, here's a rundown on our last seven Thanksgivings: In 2009, right after we were engaged, I went with him and his family to Cancun but came back early because I was in my friend's wedding on Black Friday.  In 2010 and 2011, Chris' parents were in Cancun, and we spent the holiday with my parents and my brother's family, once in Rhode Island and once here in New Jersey.  In 2012, Noah was only 3 weeks old.  Chris' parents were once again in Cancun but my parents and younger brother brought a traditional, yet super casual, Thanksgiving dinner over to our apartment.   2013 was the first Thanksgiving since I had met Chris that his parents were home for the holiday, so we spent it with them at their house.  In 2014, we flew out on Thanksgiving day for my brother's wedding in Toronto.  We spent Thanksgiving night at their rehearsal dinner eating steak :).  And last year, we were back at my in-laws.  

While not necessarily unusual for us, we had a somewhat untraditional Thanksgiving again this year.  Instead of a full and loud house with hours spent in the kitchen, we went out to eat.  And while this isn't the first time we've gone out to eat on Thanksgiving, here's our reasoning behind the decision.  First off, my in-laws were back in Cancun.  So that meant we were spending the holiday with my family.  My older brother and his family were staying in Rhode Island and my younger brother and husband are currently on a cruise in South America.  Which meant it would just be the three of us and my parents this year.  In addition to that, my mom and I just made a huge turkey dinner complete with all the sides, a month ago for Canadian Thanksgiving.  Since we just had a Thanksgiving, and Noah is happy with a hard boiled egg and some raw veggies, we really didn't feel the need to go through all that hassle for 4 adults.   So instead, we made a reservation and left the cooking and cleanup to the professionals.  

We were able to have a relaxing day at home, watching the parade in our pajamas (Noah's favorite was the Trolls float), before getting dressed for dinner.  We went to Seasons 52 where they offered a Traditional Thanksgiving menu in addition to their regular menu.  I wavered back and forth up until I placed my order, but in the end decided to mix and match and order exactly what I wanted. 

We started off with a flatbread appetizer and some cesar salads.  While they offered the traditional Thanksgiving menu for kids too, Noah has no interest in turkey and potatoes, and instead opted for his usual butter pasta.  While Chris ordered the turkey, the rest of us ordered off the regular menu.  My mom and I both decided we wanted the traditional Thanksgiving sides, but weren't really excited about the turkey.  So instead, we ordered the short ribs but requested the mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and green beans.  It really was the perfect Thanksgiving compromise!   And since it took us much longer to eat our multiple courses than it did for Noah to eat his pasta, he made himself at home on the large booth and watched some YouTube.  

Everything was going great until it was time for dessert.  Leading up to and during dinner, we kept telling Noah that if he ate well he could have vanilla ice cream for dessert.  So when it was time to order desserts, Noah ordered his ice cream and was very upset when they said they didn't have any.  He immediately started crying and demanded to go home.  I actually felt bad for the waiter, cause there really wasn't anything he could do.  Noah just kept asking, "how do they not have vanilla ice cream???".  As if that wasn't bad enough, they were also out of the pumpkin pie dessert that Chris was really looking forward to as well!  Thankfully Chris was able to contain his disappointment and didn't end up crying like Noah did.  As usual, Grandma saved the day and told Noah that she had some Dove ice cream bars at home.  Tears were wiped away, the check was paid, and we rushed home so that Noah could enjoy his ice cream.  Thanksgiving was saved!   

How did you spend your Thanksgiving?  Hopefully it was with plenty of pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Educational Gifts for Kids - Making Learning Fun

In my opinion, screen time is not all bad.  I know that there are times where I need to unwind, and watching a show or playing a game on my phone or iPad is the perfect way to do so.  The same applies for Noah.  And while I don't think kids (or adults for that matter) should be glued to a screen all day, I do think that they offer a great supplement to learning.  The main issue is choosing educational based material so screen time is a benefit rather than just mindless junk.  I love that there are so many educational shows on television that Noah loves to watch and most of the time requests on his own.   And while Noah would watch toy reviews on YouTube all day if I let him, I'm glad that I have found the KidloLand app since it is not only educational, but also super fun.  

KidloLand is an interactive app that shares thousands of songs, nursery rhymes, stories, games and educational activities catered to children 0-5 years old.  Noah was so excited to explore the app and after playing with it for weeks, there are still parts that he hasn't uncovered yet.  His favorites at the moment are the Colors and Shapes, Fruits and Veggies, Animal Kingdom and the Dinos.  He just recently discovered the Activities section and loves doing the puzzles, sorting things by color, and doing connect the dots!

Besides the fact that it keeps Noah entertained while he's learning, my favorite part of the app is that it doesn't require using data.  Noah's iPad is the kind that only works on wifi.  When we are at home or somewhere with free wifi, he's free to roam, but otherwise he's stuck to apps that don't require using data.  This fall, we've made an effort to get outside for afternoon walks while the weather is still nice.  Noah isn't always as excited about sitting in the stroller however, so I have to entice him in some way so I can get a 30 minute walk in.  Since we keep our mornings pretty busy, I figured this was the perfect time to let him have some extra screen time.  Since there's no wifi on our neighborhood walks, the KidloLand app is perfect!  Since we already downloaded all the books, songs, and games when on wifi, he's ready to explore the entire app from his stroller.  Noah gets to learn and have fun while I get a peaceful walk without any complaints.  And who needs an exercise playlist when you can listen to KidloLand's catchy songs! 

While I am often skeptical about monthly subscriptions, this app is totally worth it!  There are so many activities for your kids to explore.  The books, games, songs, activities, and puzzles will keep your child interested and learning for months, if not years, to come!  And with the holiday season, a subscription would be a really great gift to give to your child or even from a grandparent or other family member.

KidloLand is available for download on these devices:
iOS (KidloLand) // Google Play Store (Nursery Rhymes For Kids) // Amazon Appstore (KidloLand)

In addition to watching shows and playing with apps that are educational, Noah's also liking more and more "educational toys".  He loves reading books, playing board games, building Legos, putting puzzles together, and doing art projects.  While he loves playing with his superheroes and monster trucks, I find that he really enjoys doing more hands on toys that help him learn.  Noah just celebrated a birthday and these are some of our favorite educational gifts that he received... 

Ukloo (a game that helps early and non-readers learn some sight words)
Highlights and National Geographic subscriptions

Thank you to KidloLand for sponsoring this post. We were given a 6-month subscription in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and I only share things that we really love and use!

*affiliate links may be used... see my disclosure for more information

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Book and a Craft | Little Blue Truck's Christmas

Part of me thinks we should still be focused on fall themed crafts.  Maybe it's because the weather has been mild so far, but despite seeing all the stores decked for Christmas, I still have a hard time believing that Christmas will be here in a little over a month!  Don't get me wrong, Christmas is my favorite holiday of all time!  So in an effort to switch my brain from Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving to all things Christmas, I decided to whip up a Christmas craft to do with Noah last week.  I love finding craft inspiration from books, and we sure do have plenty of Christmas books to choose from.  I picked one of Noah's (and my) favorite Christmas books, Little Blue Truck's Christmas, and started brainstorming.    

First thing we did, was to read the book.  While we read it many many times last year, we loved it just as much as if we were reading it for the first time.  The premise of the book is that the Little Blue Truck is delivering Christmas trees from Toad's Tree Farm to a bunch of his animal friends.  It was fun to see the animals from the first book make an appearance in this book.  Noah liked counting down as he handed out the trees and we had fun describing what the different trees looked like.  At the end of the book, the Little Blue Truck keeps the last tree and decorates it with Christmas lights that actually twinkle!  

For our craft, we decided to first make the Little Blue Truck, and place him a wintery scene complete with the 5 Christmas trees he's out to deliver.   What's great about this craft, is that it uses things that most of us already have in our art supplies.  

Construction paper - blue (for the background), white (for the snow), and green (for the trees)
Optional: farm animal stickers

Print out the Little Blue Truck coloring page, color it, and cut out.  
Create your scene on the piece of blue construction paper.  Noah cut out a white strip of snow, I helped him cut out 5 green trees that looked like the ones in the book, and then Noah glued everything down.  
Since the trees were delivered to Blue's animal friends, we found some farm animal stickers to place next to the trees.  We didn't have a goose or a goat, so we improvised with the barn and horse stickers we had.  
Noah wanted to number the trees (so I helped with that), and add lights to Blue's tree and falling snow.  It was fun watching him add the finishing touches.  

Noah is very observant and detail oriented, so he enjoyed trying to make his picture look just like the book.  

Noah really enjoyed making this Little Blue Truck's Christmas picture.  And I liked that it worked on his counting and scissor skills.  If your child is older, you could also have them cut out the trees themselves and practice writing their numbers.  But really, this craft was all about having fun and getting into the Christmas spirt :)

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You can find more Christmas book activities, recipes, crafts and more over at Raising Fairies and Knights.

Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Becky at BYBMG | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram

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