How to: Holiday/Birthday (part 2)

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After his birthday came Hannukah. We are a blended family so I do feel like we have a lot more celebrations throughout the year.

We do light our Menorah (electric version at home, candles at Grandma and Papa’s), and do gifts but not all 8 days. We have family and friends that celebrate as well so we kind of spread things out. We probably give on average 4-5 nights¬†and then grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, and friends round out the remaining 3-4 nights. We don’t typically do too many large presents but if we do we try to make it as even to what he is getting for Chrstimas or what we are anticipating from Santa. We would just prefer that he enjoy both holidays equally and not pick a side just based on what presents he gets.

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Hannukah also typically means a family gathering or two, brisket, latkes, and dreidels. This year, Jayden was old enough to help cook the dinner and enjoyed being chef for the evening. He made brisket and Hannukah cookies with Grandma and Mommy. He even brought the plate of cookies around to serve to the family ūüôā

We also had Jayden help in the lighting of the candles, and he was also learning Hannukah songs at school along with the Christmas ones, so we wanted him to be a part of the traditions as much as we could. He definitely enjoys the Gelt ūüôā

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How to: Holiday/Birthday (part 1)

Hello, 2016!!

Been a bit M.I.A. trying to be present during the holidays rather than behind the computer or phone screen -but now I am back!

December is a rough month for us, but also one of my favorites! We have Jayden’s birthday/birthday party, Hannukah, and Christmas all squished into a very short 3 weeks. Not to mention a TON of gifts for the little man – I have no idea where I am to put everything! (Don’t get me wrong, totally appreciative of everyone that gave him something, I just have to better about purging/organizing/donating BEFORE December so it doesn’t look as much like a tornado of a toy store came barreling through our little house)

It started with Jayden’s 4th birthday party. I originally wanted to take him to Disneyland and keep it small and simple. Well, at almost 4, he definitely had a mind of his own and his own ideas of what was going to make his birthday fun. He had been talking about his birthday party since before summer camp began. He wanted a Cars party. The fact that a 3.5 year old was able to stick to his guns and still want a Cars party come October/November just meant that Mickey and the Magic Kingdom would have to wait for another time. Cars party it is.

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Picture via Google

We scoped out a few local places, but could not decide right away. One thing we were in agreement of was the date. Being that his actual birthday is right before Christmas it ends up being in competition with a lot of other parties and activities and not a lot of his little friends end up making it. We went with the first weekend of December and let’s just say the guest list was a tad larger than I anticipated. But he was so excited and had a blast!

I am a big believer of having birthday parties away from the home. While this may cost more money, it definitely is less stress. There are people to help you set up and clean up and keep the party running.

On the negative side, things don’t always go your way. Such as for our party – we were promised the larger party room when booking and the numerous visits to scope things out. Come party day, we were crammed into the smaller party room since the other group was larger and needed the larger room. That makes sense, yes, but we had already booked it. That should have meant something but instead it felt like we were just brushed aside. This was a major bummer for me since this is a venue my son loves to play at, and now it is somewhat tainted in my mind.

Regarless of the craziness that any party comes with, I tried to cut corners by DIY-ing a lot of the items. I made the invitations, some of the larger centerpieces, and the gift bags from ideas I found on Pinterest. Then I bought in bulk the items for the goody bag. There were more generic items in the bag rather than ones specific to the character, but let us be honest, at 4 they just like that there is a new toy to play with.

We also planned it around major meal times ūüôā It was a 1:30 party, so while we did feed the kids the adults just got some things to snack on.

Next year, I think we will tone it down and just have a select few friends of his picking and his cousins attend. Choose something more low key and just concentrate on celebrating Jayden. Sometimes these parties get so big the day kind of gets lost in the shuffle.

 

How to: Holiday/Birthday (part 3)

Next up is his actual birthday!

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Definitely not as big, but just as busy. We started the day with his donut tradition  with daddy. He gets to go to the donut shop, just the boys, and pick out his donut. Last year it was larger than his head and was more of a cake, this year it was a bit more manageable. We always sing happy birthday and blow out the candle.

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Once we were up and ready we then headed over to his best friend’s house since it is her birthday on the same day! He celebrated right along with her, and her parents were so sweet they even made him cupcakes and had everyone sing to him as well!

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After we finished there, we headed out with Grandma and Papa to the Discovery Cube in LA because we heard they were doing a whole Curious George theme and Jayden is obsessed with George! While he did have fun in that section (a little small considering how much they hyped it up), I have to say he seemed to enjoy himself the most in the LA Kings section. He got to be goalie, tried to score during a shoot out, climbed up on a zamboni, and got to see the jerseys and other gear up close. As much as he is still a little guy, he is all BOY. He LOVES sports! ūüôā

Once we finished up there, with a couple new items to go home with, we met up with some extended family for a small family dinner at his favorite, Japanese Tepan. This boy loves his tofu and to see the chef make a choo-choo!

We had a tired but very happy 4 year old! ūüôā

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner – this year has flown by so quickly!

This is the time of year that people go crazy trying to get that latest craze or that biggest deal. Don’t worry, I don’t judge. I am one of the many that go out that night and try to get some great gifts for my family. But the difference is, I don’t really have much expectation. I think this helps us not get involved in all the craziness that happens – I think we have all seen at least one of “those” videos. Wasn’t their someone just last year who pepper sprayed people in Walmart, then claimed that she felt threatened!

My cousin and I have made it a tradition to go shopping together. Some years others join us, but it is always a great chance for us to have some “girl time” especially now that she has moved out of state.

The difference is, we don’t have a set time to start. We enjoy our time with the entire family at the celebration, hang out and play with the kids, eat lots of food, then once just about everyone leaves we start making our way out as well. We never really have a game plan and just out to have some fun, and hope to find some great things.

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But before the craziness begins, I want to take some time to express what I am thankful for this year:

My son – he is my life. He brings joy to everything we do, and everyone we encounter. He smiles and it truly lights up a room. I love any moment spent together, and any cuddles he is willing to share with me. I treasure those moments because I know they won’t last forever.

My husband – through thick and thin we have each other. He is truly my best friend, my other half. I miss him when I am not with him, and am happy when we are together. We may go through some ups and downs, but through it all we always choose each other. We choose to be happy. We choose to love each other.

Our family – besides the 4 of us (fur baby included), we have an awesome support system in our families. They are there to talk to, to spend time with, to go on adventures with, to teach us, to listen, to help us in raising a well rounded individual, to be our guides through the world, to encourage us when we may feel lost, and to celebrate the good times that come our way.

Our home – we have recently been looking for something larger as we are slowly outgrowing our little house. But small as it is, it is ours. This is where we started, this is where we became a family. It will always be our home.

My job – it is typically hard to find something you enjoy doing, or find a company you enjoy working for. I have been lucky enough to find both. I had a bit of a employment change a few years back and changed fields. I was fortunate that it was possible with my current company during a time that I needed stability the most. I enjoyed both fields, but knew the move was very much needed at the time. Who knows, I may end up going back once things calm down again. Maybe.

Our friends Рa large part of our lives and our honorary family members. I could not do it without my friends.  They keep me grounded. They encourage me to do better. They love my son like their own. They accept me for who I am (crazy and all). They are supportive. They love me. Most importantly, they are there.

Taking some time out to remember all the good in our lives is VERY important. More and more it seems people forget that there is always good – in people, in moments, in life. It may not show itself each and every day, but it is there. We often take it for granted, but it is what helps keep us going, what makes us live our lives the way we do.

Never forget to give thanks – you are more blessed than you think you are.

How To: Make a Fall Wreath on a Budget

I just love Pinterest! I find the best ideas – some successful, some utter failures ūüôā

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This time, a success! I made a Ribbon Wreath. I debated for a while on whether or not to make it Halloween specific or just go with Fall. Fall won seeing as that it can be used for a longer amount of time.

I went to Joanne’s and found the white foam ring (full price, but I had a 40% off coupon good only for regular priced items so that worked out perfectly). Then I chose 10 different fall colored ribbons in a variety of shades, designs, and sizes. These were all on sale for 60% off, and the large burlap one was on clearance for $1.99.

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I cut the ribbons into approximately 10-12 inch strips and just knotted them all around the ring, scattering the like ribbons to make it look random.

All in all, it took about an hour and cost about $18-$20 – I finished it off by trimming the ends into the cute ribbon points we were taught to make by our moms growing up haha and took some time messing with it until it resembled a full, semi-fluffy wreath. My one concern was making sure the white of the ring did not show. In hindsight, I probably would have saved myself some trouble if I just wrapped the ring in ribbon to begin with and that way if any part was showing it would look intentional or people would not notice at all since it would then blend in.

I chose to hang it by using an extra piece of the burlap ribbon and a Command Hook since the wreath hook that I have is silver and glittery and just does not go. I like the more natural look of the burlap – but to each their own ūüôā

 

Halloween Fun

Halloween is a fun time to get dressed up and be a big kid for a night!

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AND enjoy lots and lots of candy! ūüôā

Hubby and I were “Partners in Crime” stealing loot for Jayden’s college fund haha and Jayden was a Police Officer – S.W.A.T. team technically.

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For me it is a lot more stressful leading up to it since I am in charge of our company party for clients, staff, and their families. Halloween typically starts much earlier for me – ordering, scheduling, purchasing. I usually make quite a mess in our office just trying to stock all the things needed for a good 80+ people. Luckily they don’t all come at one time, so we are able to take it somewhat easy on the day of. After the decorating is done, we are able to take a breath and take a look around and enjoy all the smiles of everyone around you enjoying themselves. Then the chaos begins again when it is time to clean up and pack up. Even if it is a ton of work, I still enjoy it and have lots of fun.

Halloween day itself I am able to relax since my mother-in-law typically takes charge of it. We do dinner at her house and then head out for trick-or-treating. This year we decided to try heading to a good section of houses in Agoura Hills that blocks off the streets and just has house after house looking fabulous and handing out yummy goodies. Last year we caught wind of it later in the evening and just got to see a small section of it. This year we started there so I was shocked just how large this all really is. And, O.M.G.! The people! So many people! It was overwhelming at times for me, and it eventually got the best of our little man ūüė¶¬†Once we got him calmed down we headed over to Grandma’s neighborhood to do a little more mellow trick-or-treating. I wanted to make sure we ended on a good note, and luckily we did. The adults even got a nice jello shot¬†treat at one of the houses! ūüôā

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To get into the spirit, I created little goodie bags for each couple, and one for Jayden too.

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I started with these cute chalkboard take-out boxes I found at Joanne’s on clearance (score!). Got some plastic spiders and Hershey Kisses from Target and a spool of orange ribbon from the Dollar Tree. I printed out the tags from a pin I found on Pinterest – I LOVE when they have free printables! ūüôā

They were a big hit and so stinkin’ cute- even if I do say so myself!

How To: Make Monkey Bread Muffins

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I had been seeing more and more pictures of monkey bread on my Facebook feed…. it made me want to make some of my own. The problem with monkey bread, in my opinion, is that it is a difficult treat for just 3 people because it is usually made in a Bundt pan and it always seems like too much and we end up throwing some of it away.

I decided to experiment one night making muffin sized treats that would make it easier to grab one and go for breakfast or a quick snack in the afternoon.

I started with a mini¬†muffin tin and muffin liners (I just used what was laying around the kitchen – so mine were spring colors with flowers and stripes). Spray the pan¬†down with some cooking spray to make it easier to remove later – I forgot this step and it was not pretty popping out ūüė¶¬†Good thing this was just for the family and nobody was really going to see them. My boys didn’t seem to mind that they were a tad messy looking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used three small tubes of Pillsbury biscuits cut up into quarters, a stick of butter melted, a cup and a half to two cups of brown sugar (a cup or so for rolling and about half a cup for melting), and lots and lots of ground cinnamon Рjust eyeball what works for your taste.

Get started rolling your biscuit pieces in the dry mix (sugar and cinnamon) while you are melting the butter and dissolving the rest of the sugar in it.

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Once you have all the pieces covered in the dry sugar/cinnamon mix go ahead and fill your muffin tins, but without packing them in too tight. After that, pour over the melted syrup mixture – be careful, it’s hot!

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Stick the pan¬†in the oven for 13-17 minutes. Depending on your oven, the timing will vary. Mine were ready at about 12-13 minutes, so¬†keep an eye on it! A couple of the muffins in the back were getting pretty brown. Luckily I have a hubby that likes¬†things on more of the well done side ūüôā

Let it cool to the touch and enjoy! Mine were not as gooey as I had anticipated, but then again I used paper liners so I think it soaked up some of the yummy goodness. Next time I will try foil liners or no liners at all and see how it goes. Even without as much¬†gooey syrup, I still got the sweet effect I was going for so they were gobbled up by my family. Hubby barely waited for them to cool off before attacking the pan! ūüôā

Next time, I think I will try this with a little frosting drizzled on top – I see them do that at different bakeries, and I think it would just put it over the edge!

How to: Potty Train

Fisher Price Froggy Potty Seat (purchase at Amazon.com)

Potty training is not a fun experience. It is a messy one!

You need to go into this fully knowing what you are getting yourself into – lots of wet clothes, floors, etc. Have lots of sanitizing materials handy and lots of extra towels. And plan to stay home for it (I say at least over the weekend).

I was lucky that I had experience as a Behavioral Therapist for many years and had gone through it with other kiddos before the time came for my own little man. Those “practice runs” came in handy when my husband and I got started.

List of items needed (besides the towels and disinfectant for clean-up) :

  • Toilet seat (free standing or toilet seat insert – you decide!)
  • Step stool
  • Undies (tons – I probably started with a good 20 of them)
  • Wipes
  • Books/small games/toys
  • Reward (keep it small)

Thomas the Tank Undies (purchase at Amazon.com)

We started by deciding what weekend we were free to stay home and agreed to get started. I took Jayden shopping for the undies so he was able to choose the ones he liked. I got some fun character ones and some plain white and striped ones too.

Next up,¬†we discussed what was going to be the reward. For staying dry, we chose stickers (you can get a lot of these at the dollar store) and for going in the potty, we chose M&Ms since Jayden loved them and we felt it would be motivating. The most important part of choosing the reward is that it is something that will entice the kiddo. If it isn’t motivating, it just wont happen. Remember, you are trying to reinforce the good behavior (going in the potty) so reward them right away with praise, “Great job staying dry!”, “Look, you went pee pee in the potty! Way to go!”. Also, you want to reward them right away with the tangible item. You want them to make the connection that if they do good, they get good things in return. If you wait too long you loose that connection, especially in the younger kiddos.

Next we set up the bathroom so that things were within reach. We put the M&Ms in a clear jar on the counter so he could see them. Stickers ended up on the counter as well, just out of reach. We put some books and toys in a little storage cube in the corner so we can grab things to keep him entertained while sitting there.

We started off with a potty seat insert and a stool. I recommend the stool because it helps the kiddo reach to get on and also gives them something to put their feet on so they are not just dangling. It didn’t work too well for us since Jayden is on the smaller side and he got scared being on the toilet. He just could not reach the stool and so I think he just felt like he was hanging on. Once we got the free standing potty, he was much more comfortable. The stool still came in handy because then it helped him get up to the sink for washing hands and brushing teeth. The first few days it seemed he was getting the pooping in the potty part pretty quickly, but was still having wet accidents as he just wasn’t able to control it yet. It went from ” I need to go potty” to “oops, I went peepee on the floor” in about 2 seconds. There wasn’t enough time to get him to the potty. This got better as he learned to hold it and make his way to the potty. Heads-up if you have a boy – be prepared to teach him to lean forward when peeing sitting down. If not, be ready to get squirted! ūüôā

Jayden took to going peepee and poopoo in the potty pretty easily. Some things that we did that I feel helped were:

  • Choosing to start when the weather was nice – this way we were able to let him hang out in just his undies and made the process that much easier.
  • We allowed him to hang out in his birthday suit – he was a lot more aware of what was going on when he did not have something to catch his accidents.
  • As he got better and better at going in the potty, we started a potty chart – this way he got to earn a bigger prize if he earned a certain number of successes. We let him choose if he wanted to go for ice cream/Slurpee, a new Matchbox/Hot Wheels car, etc. before we started a fresh chart and he was very excited to work for the bigger prize. He wasn’t punished for having an accident, he just had to earn the right amount.
  • We took it one step at a time – we started with only potty training during the day, and saved night time potty training for when we accomplished the day time training. This worked in our favor because Jayden was so proud of himself and what he had accomplished that he was the one that told us he did not want diapers anymore and wanted to only have undies even when he went to bed. We have had only 2 or 3 night time accidents since he decided to get rid of all diapers.
  • We had open discussions with his school teachers about his routine – keeping the communication lines open was a must. They have Jayden for 8-9 hours most days and¬†I feel school was a big help because his teachers worked right along with us when he was under their care. They gave him rewards (we put a baggie of goodies in his backpack for them), and he got lots of praise. We were given reports on how he was doing and given feedback on what was working or was not working. Remember, they have been doing this probably longer than you have and for more children – listen.¬†You may not always agree, but you might learn a thing or two that you did not otherwise¬†already think of.

Everyone has their own method that works… this is what worked for our family. If anything, maybe you got a few new ideas to help make your process a bit easier.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links*

Transitions: Big-Boy Bed VS Toddler Bed

My husband and I have been talking A LOT about this lately – should we or shouldn’t we upgrade to a “big-boy” bed?

Jayden has been having trouble sleeping in his own bed and has been coming into our bed in the middle of the night. We want him to go back to his usual routine so that we can get some rest too – he is a kicker unfortunately and keeps mommy and daddy up when he joins us.

He is 3, almost 4 and should be able to stay in his own bed. We have tried returning him to his own bed over and over again, but none of us are getting any sleep and it isn’t really working for us. Then there is the whole thing of him now choosing to sleep on the floor in his room. He will grab his pillow and a blanket and transfer to the floor in the middle of his room after we have tucked him into his bed for the night. Not sure what that is about!

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The KURA reversible bed from IKEA. Courtesy of http://www.ikea.com

So now I am thinking that having a new big-boy bed and making a big deal about it will help motivate him to stay in it. He¬†has been¬†into making his own decisions lately, so we are planning to take him shopping with us and letting him choose his own bed –¬†with a lot of guidance from mommy and daddy –¬†should do the trick. This way he is somewhat invested in it, rather than just coming home to something new that he is now supposed to like.

He has been loving tree houses/clubhouses/forts, and he even builds them with his blankets using chairs and the couch, so we are looking for somewhat of a tent style bed, maybe a low loft style so he can make a clubhouse out of the bottom half. I have been scouting out Pinterest for inspiration РI liked the idea of creating a little reading nook so he would have a comfy spot to read his books or just relax. Then there is also the idea of creating more toy storage. This would free up some space in the living room turned playroom. Then there is also the idea of letting him use it for a clubhouse. So many ideas to choose from! I may have to do some sort of combination of all three and add some pizzazz to make it extra special.

I’m thinking we will be making the transition sooner rather than later – just hoping for the best! and¬†LOTS more rest¬†ūüôā

Back-to-School

School is back in session!

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Jayden attended Summer Camp at the same school so to him it may seem like he never stopped going, but to us parents there is a difference. Summer school consisted of swimming lessons, on-site field trips, fun educational activities. The school year on the other hand focuses more on the curriculum Рwhile still having fun. At 3-5 years old, you have no choice but to make it fun or those kids will turn on you! We have even begun his homework time when he comes home from school using different worksheets and flash cards. He seems to really be enjoying it. He even asked for it on his own over the weekend!

To prepare for the school year, we braved the back-to-school shopping even though we did not receive lists from the school (thank goodness, since I have heard how much of a nightmare these could be). We were there to find a new backpack, lunchbox, and what ever else caught our attention. This year we thought it would be a good time to get a backpack that Jayden could carry on his own. His last one was more convenient for us parents to schlep items to and from school. We asked Jayden what kind of backpack he would like ahead of time, showing him pictures. The problem with this is he is 3 1/2. His choice changed just about every day. I finally had to tell him that it was crunch time and that whatever he chose was it. No more changing it once Mommy bought it. He chose a Spiderman backpack, and enjoys being a big boy carrying his own bag. He looks so cute walking into school with his little backpack and lunchbox. He has grown up so much!

He has been in the same school since he was 20 months and we just love it and so does he. He started off in their Toddler Program, then just kept moving up and now he is in the oldest Preschool classroom. I cannot believe that PreK is next! Time is going by so fast.

While shy to start, Jayden sure has warmed up to lots of the students and teachers.¬†He has his little group of friends that he plays with at school and he is so excited to see them in the morning and talks about them once I pick him up. It is so cute to hear him talk about what¬†this person did, or what they said, or what games they played.¬†I find it wonderful¬†that he has found his place in the class and has friends to enjoy his day with and I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing he isn’t miserable when I have to be at work. The best part of the day for me though is still when he comes running to me, yelling “mommy” happy as can be when I pick him up! I know he had lots of fun at school that day, but at least he still missed his mommy (even just a little bit). I know after a while he isn’t going to be so happy to see me, will want me to leave so he can play, and will not want a hug or kiss in front of his friends so I¬†am trying to enjoy these little moments as much as I can now – soak it up

Check out some of our finds:

Spiderman Backpack (purchase at Amazon.com)

Jayden has been loving superheroes these days so Spiderman won the backpack battle!

Fit and Fresh Lunch Kit (purchase at Amazon.com)

These lunch kits have come in very handy since the ice pack connects to it and it comes in so many sizes. Downside, we have lost a few of the ice packs since they are so small. I just throw an extra ice pack in the lunch box to keep things cool.

Zak! Spiderman Water Bottle (purchase at Amazon.com)

While Jayden drinks from an open cup mainly when we are home, school still requires a spill-proof cup since they are dealing with a bunch of kids at one time. We have switched to these lately, in different characters. Jayden likes it, and is much more suited for “big boys”.

** This post contains Amazon Affiliate links **