Sunday, December 21, 2014


Each of my kids have written a letter of sorts this week.  Since they warmed my heart, I thought I'd share them with you.

First up:  Nora.

The boys made Christmas cards for kids at St. Jude, and Nora copied the words from one of the cards.  She made a note for me while I was sick. 

I hope you feel better soon!

That's a keeper.

Next up:  Griffin.

Griffin lost a tooth on Friday.  It had been wiggly for a very long time, and it was painful when he ate.  So we were all very happy for him when he finally pulled it out.

Griffin disappeared for a few minutes and then came upstairs carrying a letter to the Tooth Fairy that he had created in Microsoft Word on our computer (including clip art) and printed all by himself.

He left the letter and tooth under his pillow that night.  He was highly disappointed Saturday morning when he awoke to find just a dollar under his pillow.  He was hoping for a letter from the Tooth Fairy in response to his letter.  Little does he know just how lucky he was that she remembered his dollar.

Last but not least:  Nolan.

This'll get your heart all warm and fuzzy with Christmas cheer.

All the kids in Nolan's class had to write a letter to Santa and create a construction paper Santa to go with the letter.  These were just for decoration.  Nolan's letter made me melt.

Since Nolan's handwriting leaves a little something to be desired, I'll tell you what his letter says:
I want my cousins house to sell so they don't have to pay a lot of money.  I would love for my brother to have a great 7th year of life.  Please can you make my stomach to get better so I can eat all foods.  I hope you make my mom's stomach to get better too.  I want Nora to have a great 5th year of life.  Love, Nolan
Seriously amazing.  I think I'll keep this letter forever.

As I marvel at my growing babies and each little thing that they learn and accomplish, I am super pumped for extra family time over Christmas break.  This weekend has already been a great kick off for us.  I accomplished so much as the kids played wild and crazy games with Jared.  My gifts are finally ALL bought/made and wrapped.  I have a plan for making all foods for all the events of the week.  Everything is organized and managed.

There's nothing left to do but enjoy the season, and I'm feeling the excitement of Christmas!!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Gifts for Students

Over the last few posts, I've shown you the gifts I made for various teachers and administrators in our world.  My kids also needed gifts for their classmates.

Griffin's teacher just asked each child to bring in $2 to purchase an activity book and pencil from her collection, and they'll give those to a classmate at their party.  Nolan's teacher asked that each student bring in a small gift for each student in their class (19 kids total).  Nora had to bring in some sort of gift or treat for every girl in her dance class.

I'll start with Nora's gifts.

Since her class is all 4-year-old girls who dressed up as princesses for Halloween, we started by purchasing princess lip balms.  We found 8-packs of them at Target and picked up two of those.  I let Nora choose a bag of Christmas candy, and she chose a mixed bag of Snickers, Milkyway, and Twix.  I bought treat bags from Walmart.

Nora helped me put one lip balm and two candies in each bag.  I rolled the tops of the bags down and put the adhesive-backed bag toppers on the bags.

I wrote "Merry Christmas! from" on the backs and had Nora sign her name.

These made neat little packages to hand out at her dance Christmas party, and I think they were a hit.

I decided to let myself off the hook for Nolan's class and just buy gifts.  He has 19 total kids in his class, including Nolan, so I bought a package of 18 little mazes at Target and called it done.

When I told him there aren't enough for him to have one, he made a face at me.  But then I reminded him that he'll be bringing home holiday pencils, stickers, candies, and other random crap toys.  He got over it.

A few more items checked off my Christmas gift list!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Extra Teacher Gifts

I already showed you the first batch of gifts I made for the boys' school teachers and the second batch of gifts I made for the school secretary, school nurse, and Nora's dance teacher. 

Today I want to show you what I made for the dance teacher's assistants.  I didn't want to spend much money but wanted to give them some sort of gift to show appreciation and wish them Merry Christmas.

I saw multiple versions of "Hand Santa-tizer" on Pinterest, so I'm not even sure who deserves credit for this idea.  I'll show you my version.

I went to Walgreen's and bought two hand sanitizers for each assistant, one with aloe and one apple scented.  These were $0.99 each.

I left the labels on the apple scented ones and wrapped them with a piece of red paper, overlapping the ends on the back side and securing with glue. 

I used scalloped scissors to cut two strips of white paper and glued them to the fronts of each sanitizer.

I cut a strip of black paper and wrapped it around like a belt.

I wanted something gold for the belt buckle, and I remembered that I have some gold washi tape that I found on clearance awhile back.  I cut a small square of the tape and used my craft knife (like a scalpel) to cut a square out of the center.  Then I applied it over the belt.

While I was getting my gold tape, I came across some red polka dot tape.  I decided to use that to cover the other sanitizers.  For these (the aloe sanitizers), I peeled off the labels from the bottles first because my tape is slightly translucent.  Then I carefully wrapped one strip of tape around the top of the bottle.  Then I lined up the next row of tape under that, and I continued until the bottle was covered.

I typed up a little something and printed it on cardstock to make little tags for the Santa bottles.

Each assistant received one Santa-tizer and one polka dotted sanitizer.  I put them in gift bags and added some Christmas candy and cards made by Nora.

Since I had all the paper scraps left over from previous projects and already had the decorative tapes, these gifts only cost me $0.99 per hand sanitizer plus the cost of the candy.  I'm sure I'll be making more of these next year!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Teacher Christmas Gifts

I already wrote about the gifts I put together for my kids' school teachers (read here if you missed it).  If you have kids, then I'm sure you understand how the gift-giving expands beyond the everyday teachers to other people who have some impact on your kiddos. 

Next I want to show you the gifts I put together for Nora's dance teacher, the boys' school secretary, and the school nurse.  Nora absolutely loves her dance class, which includes tap, ballet, and tumbling.  The boys' school secretary is a phenomenal woman who always greets people with a smile and does so much to keep the school running smoothly.  The school nurse has been amazing this year as Nolan has had so many health issues and has been in her office sometimes on a daily basis.  I wish I could spend tons of money on these under-appreciated school employees!

For these lovely ladies, I was inspired by Pinterest (of course).  I started by purchasing fuzzy socks, good lotion, and nail polish for each woman. 

I laid these items on some decorative cellophane gift wrap, gathered the gift wrap, and tied a ribbon around the top.

I repeated the process for the other two gifts.  And, yes, I did obsess over what nail polish colors to buy for each recipient.  I actually fell in love with one shade and bought it for each woman.  Then I added a second polish for each recipient based on what I thought they would like best.  Hey, the nail polishes were on sale and were also buy 2 get 1 free!

Are you ready for my favorite part?? 

I printed cards from Ivy In The Bay that say "For Your Mistle Toes."  How cute is that?!

The original printable cards had cute little snowflakes under "Mistle Toes."  For some unknown reason, mine printed with "C" letters instead of snowflakes.  Seriously, I have no idea what's happening here.  It looked normal on my screen and came out of my printer with random C's.

Have no fear.  I found a solution.

I used adhesive-backed rhinestones to cover the C's.

All better.

I hole-punched the upper left corner of the folded cards and wrote notes to the recipients inside.  Then I tied the cards onto the gifts using the ribbons already on the gifts.

The last step (which could have been skipped) was plopping these completed gifts into gift bags to conceal their contents.

Next up, I'll show you what happened when I remembered that Nora's dance teacher has two assistants, and I needed a little something for them.  See?  I told you I have trouble drawing gift-giving boundaries.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teacher Christmas Gifts

My boys have fantastic teachers.  This year I was thinking about how these women are also wives and moms, and they have to find time to prepare for Christmas too. 

So I decided to make each teacher a basket of items to help them wrap their Christmas gifts.

I shopped at Hobby Lobby when all Christmas items were 50% off, and I also picked up some items from Walmart and Deals.

I bought several colors of tissue paper, a dispenser with 8 colors of ribbon, bows, shredded paper for gift filler, good scissors, and good tape.

I was able to make some products go further by dividing them between the two teachers' gifts.

I bought a package of red large bows and a package of green large bows, and I pulled a little switcheroo so I could give each teacher two of each color.

I bought a pack of 20 Christmas cards and divided them up to give 10 to each teacher.

I picked up little Christmas stickers (envelope seals) and put one sheet in each basket.

I bought a 2-pack of good pens (for writing all those Christmas cards and gift tags) and gave one to each teacher.

I already had Avery labels on hand, and I wanted to print personalized gift labels for the teachers.  For reasons yet unidentified, those labels would not print correctly.  I tried the online templates.  I tried the Word templates.  After about four attempts, I gave up.  So I ordered labels from Shutterfly.  I got one set free and got the other 30% off.  I still spent more money than I would have using the labels I already had, but I was willing to pay to stop being so frustrated with my computer.

I had a vision of what I wanted as the vessels for all these Christmas goodies, but I couldn't find it.  So I bought cute Christmas baskets/bins from Hobby Lobby.

I wrapped the filled bins with decorative cellophane wrap and tied it with ribbon.  I topped the gifts off with cards telling each teacher how much I appreciate them spending their time and energy on my kids.  I think that's what they really need for Christmas--to know that they are appreciated!

Before I had to order the Shutterfly labels, I spent just under $20 on each teacher's gift.  I was pretty happy with what I got for the money!  I may have busted my budget in the end, but it was worth it to stop trying to figure out how to print the labels myself.

The boys delivered their teachers' gifts on Monday of this week.  I wanted to send them in last week so the teachers would have plenty of time to use these items, but I just couldn't get it all finished before this past weekend.

I'm hoping these teachers know how much we appreciate them, and I hope our gifts help them as they get ready for Christmas this year.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Happy Halloween/Thanksgiving/Birthday/Christmas

I'm obviously quite behind on my blogging.  The further behind I get, the less motivated I feel to catch up.

So, let's play a little catch-up, shall we?


This year we had a pretty fun Halloween.  Nolan was Emmet from The Lego Movie, Griffin was Steve from Minecraft, and Nora was Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

I bought Nolan's hoodie from Kohl's and his pants from Gymboree.  The mask was a printable from PartyCityPrints on Etsy.  We bought Griffin's cardboard Steve head from Target, and the clothes were things he already hand on hand.  He also carried the cardboard Minecraft Pixaxe that we made awhile back.  We borrowed Nora's costume from a friend, and her red wig was purchased at Party City.

I initially thought this Halloween would be horrible for Nolan with his dietary restrictions, but we found several candies that are "Nolan-safe," and he was just fine.

We trick-or-treated in our neighborhood and then went to a friend's house for a neighborhood Halloween party.  It was a really fun night. 


This was a really fun Thanksgiving for us.  This was the first time my sister and her family have come home since moving to Florida, and both of Jared's brothers were able to come home at the same time (which rarely happens).  I did all of my anxious planning and fretting ahead of time so I could relax and enjoy family once the time came.

We cleared out a bedroom in our basement and made it into a guest room for my sister and her husband.  My kids of course wanted their cousins to stay in their rooms.  We got to have my sister's family spend two nights at our house.

The week of Thanksgiving was jam-packed for us, but we resisted our natural selves and enjoyed every minute of it! :)  We had a family gathering Tuesday evening to celebrate the birthdays of two of our nieces and Jared's grandma.  There was a family game night at Jared's dad's on Wednesday evening.  Jared and the kids went to that while I stayed home and worked on food prep.  Thursday we had Thanksgiving with Jared's side at a local church (because the gathering is so large) for lunch and the afternoon.  I snuck away to my father-in-law's house at the end of the afternoon so I could finish cooking my food for my side.  My side of the family gathered at my brother's house for dinner and the evening.

You know we got our cameras out and forced the kids to gather together at each family gathering.  Here are my kids and their cousins on Jared's side:

I cracked myself up giving this picture a vintage finish since we took the pictures in the church's 1970's style sanctuary.

And here are my kids with their cousins on my side:

Thanksgiving was an interesting time to have a child with special dietary restrictions.  I felt awful for Nolan when I had to repeatedly tell him he couldn't eat things he wanted.  It's hard enough trying to go through a food line and get five plates of food between me and Jared, and it was much more complicated trying to scan the options and assess the ingredients.  Overall, I'd say the food part went pretty well.

We certainly enjoyed all of the family time on Thanksgiving, and the day after Thanksgiving provided another opportunity for family time as we had Griffin's birthday party.


Griffin's birthday is December 1, but we usually have his birthday party on the weekend after Thanksgiving before all of the Christmas craziness sets in.  This year we had it on the day after Thanksgiving so we could do it while all of our siblings were still in town.

This was my favorite birthday party yet.  I had done all of my planning and preparing ahead of time, so I was relaxed when the party time came around.  The best part was that we had more family than we've ever had gathered together before (other than at a wedding).

In addition to our usual party guests (our parents and local siblings), we had our out-of-state siblings, Jared's grandma (who comes when she can but is also in declining health), Jared's sister who rarely comes to family gatherings, and Jared's stepdad (who is in poor health waiting for a kidney transplant).  Since my kids had all of their cousins on both sides there, we took a big picture of all the kids.  You can imagine how that went!

Jared's sister Caitlin got in there to try to get her daughter Addison to cooperate.  The maneuver was unsuccessful.

I'll write a separate post (sometime...) with pictures from Griffin's birthday party to show all the Minecraftness.

More family pictures:

Me and my siblings

Jared and his siblings
Griffin with Great Grandma Parsons

Griffin with Papa Marty (Jared's stepdad)


I have been very busy the last month or so shopping for Christmas.  I really wanted to be completely done shopping by December 1, but that didn't happen.  I'm about 85% done, which is the best I've ever done, so I'll take it.  I'm down to a few tough people for whom I just don't know what to get.  Now I have A LOT of wrapping to do!

We already got our Christmas tree with my sister's family (so thankful we could keep up that tradition this year!).  We set it up after Griffin's party and decorated it.

Riding the tractor out to find a tree

Sweet talking Daddy into carrying her

We have ALWAYS cut down our own tree, but this year the selection was worse than ever.  So, for the first time, we ended up buying a pre-cut tree.

When it came time to decorate the tree, our clothing choices were quite comical (and typical).  Jared and I wore pajamas.  Nolan wore normal clothes.  Griffin wore an old t-shirt of mine.  Nora wore a frilly ballet leotard.

Jared and the kids by our decorated tree

Me and my babies

We also decorated our gingerbread houses, which is a favorite tradition in our home.  This year we let each person choose their own kit.  Jared chose a traditional gingerbread house, Nolan chose the Willy Wonka house because all the candy was Nolan-safe, Griffin chose a gingerbread train, Nora chose a Hello Kitty house, and I chose a gingerbread sleigh and reindeer.

I wasn't wearing makeup, so I went ahead and cropped myself out of my picture :)
I'd say that's enough updating for now.  Hopefully next time I write, I'll have fewer than four holidays to write about!