November 23, 2015

Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Some people like to wrap up Christmas books and let their kids open one each night to read together. I tried this once, and decided it was a terrible idea. Some books need reading more than once, and what if your favorite Christmas book sits in the pile unopened until Christmas Eve and you only get to read it aloud once during the Christmas season? Not going to work for this family. We lasted five days and then opened the rest and just read and read and read. Reading aloud Christmas books is one of my favorite holiday activities.

Great list of books to read aloud with kids during the holiday season to help your family get in the Christmas spirit!

We have amassed quite the collection in the 13 years since I've had children. Here is a list of some of our favorites, both secular and religious. Unfortunately, Christmas books don't always stay in print, so as I went to recommend some of my favorites I found that you can now only buy them used! So some of our favorites are not on this list. I tried to only include ones that are still in print.

(these are affiliate links)

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born

And I know at this time of year, people like to put together lists of holiday activities for advent calendar fun with the kids. This year I've decided to simplify:

Because what more do you need? Great list of books to read aloud with kids during the holiday season to help your family get in the Christmas spirit!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram, or subscribe to receive occasional emails.

You may also enjoy our other Christmas posts and gift lists:

Unique Christmas Stocking stuffers

Creative Christmas Letter Ideas

Creative Toys for Creative Kids

November 19, 2015

To the Mom of a Colicky Baby

My daughter turns 13 next week, and I've been thinking about her baby years, as is common when our little ones reach milestones. I tease her by telling her that I'm so excited that she's turning 3 and wouldn't it be fun to have a fairy princess party. For some reason she doesn't like that. I guess I'm in a bit of denial.

Her baby months were hard. So super hard. She was my first. I had no idea what was going on. Being a mom overwhelmed me. I had a little human being I was responsible for all the time with no breaks. And she was not what I was expecting.

Recently I met a man whose wife was dealing with a colicky baby at home and was struggling. I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her it would all be okay in the end, but I couldn't, so I'm writing this post instead, so she knows that she is not alone. Having a colicky baby is hard, and sometimes reading about other people's similar experiences can be comforting, so I hope this post helps those who are going through what I went through almost 13 years ago.

Colicky babies are so hard! But you are not alone.

I had heard that newborns slept a lot. Nobody told Maren. She liked to cry instead. She cried ALL THE TIME. Nothing was wrong with her, but she just wouldn't sleep unless she was being held, and only then after LONG sessions of bouncing and rocking and walking. And we couldn't put her down. She would wake up as soon as she was put down and then the crying would start again. She would nurse for a crazy long time, then rest in our arms for 30 minutes, then wake up and want to nurse again. I was going crazy. I thought I was a terrible mother and what was I doing wrong? I cut out so many things from my diet, thinking maybe that would help. We gave her drops that were supposed to help with gas, but we didn't know if that's what it was (and they didn't seem to help). We thought maybe she wasn't getting enough food so we supplemented with formula but that didn't help either. We thought maybe it was colic, but I had read that colicky babies would cry for extended periods of time at night. Maren cried ALL DAY LONG.  Finally at about 3 or 4 months things settled down and we got into a good nap routine, but it was a rough start to parenthood.

If you are going through something similar, I want you to know that things will get better. It seems like the crying will never end, but eventually it will. And no, you're not going to be able to enjoy the newborn phase (as I hear some people do) but the next stage will be that much better because the screaming will be gone and you will feel such relief!

Don't take it personally. You're not doing anything wrong. Some babies just have a harder adjustment into life for whatever reason. And don't hold it against her. She's not being bad on purpose. Just accept that this is how life will be for a few months. I found with my second colicky baby that it was easier to deal with because I knew it would end. I would talk to him in a silly voice while he was screaming and say things like "someday you are going to be so sorry for screaming at me all the time". Sometimes I would sing and dance around the house while holding him as he cried. Choosing to not take it personally really helped me not be angry at my child.

It's okay to put the baby down in another room and let her scream. Really, it is. If you need a break, take it. If I knew Maren was fed, had a clean diaper, and I had already given her plenty of attention and she was still screaming, I would put her down in her crib and let her cry for a while. You'll read lots of things telling you this is a horrible thing to do and you should always be there when your child is crying to comfort or you'll have attachment issues. I don't believe this applies to colicky babies. I would leave Maren to cry, and often I would then go and throw myself down on my bed and cry in the other room. It's hard, and sometimes you need a break. There are no attachment issues with my daughter and I left her to cry on her own as a newborn, so take that for what it's worth. Nathan was my 4th, so I couldn't hold him as much as I did Maren anyway, and he spent quite a bit of time crying on his own. Also no attachment issues with him. Both of my colicky babies are doing great at life.

Swaddling helped with my second colicky baby. We tried swaddling Maren but she would always break out of our wrapping. When Nathan came along we found the swaddles that velcro around the arms and stay tight. They were great! He wouldn't wake as easily when he was swaddled so we could actually put him down and he would stay asleep for 30 minutes or so, whereas Maren would be awake seconds after we put her down. Also remember that it's okay to ask for lots of help from friends and family. Leave the house without the kids when you can to have some quiet time.

When she reached 4 months, we were finally able to get her in a good nap routine and the crying faded away. She was such a sweet baby and toddler after that.

Me? Cry? Never! 

I know what you're going through is hard. For me it was hard seeing other mothers with their babies who were about the same age as Maren and they were such sweet, sleepy babies! I was upset that mine was not cooperating. I felt like I had been robbed of the newborn phase where you were supposed to cuddle and enjoy your little baby who would nurse quickly, sleep for hours, and be a joy. I didn't enjoy any of my newborns, but I'm still a good mom.  Everything will be okay, your child will be okay, and in the meantime invest in some good noise canceling earphones.

Okay that last bit was a joke. But I hope if you are reading this and you are struggling with a newborn who has colic that you will feel a bit of comfort knowing you are not alone. I hope you can find some quiet time. I hope you have supportive friends and family. And I hope you will love your screaming child.

And now I guess I have to accept the fact that my firstborn is turning 13. I don't feel old enough to have a teenager, but clearly I am. Lucky for me she's pretty much the best teenager ever. I hope it stays that way. And I still just might make her a princess cake, because why not?

Why wouldn't she want another princess party? I just don't get it. . . 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you can follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram, or subscribe to receive occasional emails.

(affiliate links to things that helped) (although really, each child is so different, that a lot of it is trial and error as to what will help with yours, so good luck!)


November 9, 2015

Creative Stocking Stuffers for Kids

Here are some unique ideas for items to put in the kids' stockings this Christmas!

such fun and creative ideas for kids' stockings! Not your usual list.

this post contains affiliate links

Avoid the trap of stuffing a stocking with more "stuff" (ie. junky little toys that will quickly be thrown in a landfill). Here are some ideas for toys, treats, and practical items that kids will love. I have commented on some of them to make my case for including them, but mostly it's just a list. I like to find things that kids will use and that take up plenty of space in the stocking so you don't have to buy so much stuffing stuff. (gift cards are nice, but they don't take up much space!)

Painter's Tape - my kids love using my blue tape to mark out all sorts of things while they're playing with Lego blocks and Playmobil. They mark out kingdom boundaries, lakes and rivers, and roads for their vehicles (you could even throw in some little cars with the tape!)

headlampor flashlights - kids love flashlights, and headlamps are even better because they leave your hands free! Also works well as a reading lamp for book lovers.

Book Barrettes - Also for book lovers, check out these fun barrettes that double as a bookmark. (and yes, my daughter makes them, so I'm a bit biased)

tennis balls - Tennis balls are perfect for kids to throw around, hit with a bat, or bounce against the garage. They're bouncy but won't do to much damage. Also, they take up lots of space in a stocking.

Tape Measure - my kids love measuring things, and this sewing tape measure doesn't have the sharp edges of a normal metal one so I feel okay with them using it whenever they like.

Rubber Bands - I'm not sure what my kids do with them, but they are always wanting to play with them.

Post-it notes

back scratcher- have a child who loves to have their back scratched? Let them scratch it themselves, or just make it easier for someone else to scratch with a massage tool.

Stopwatch or wristwatch with stopwatch - a new watch is a great thing for a stocking, especially if it is a stop watch so kids can time themselves or their friends doing things.


tools - hammer, screwdriver, etc . . . You be the judge of whether or not your kids are ready, but we've let our kids use a hammer to nail bits of scrap wood together and make their own creations starting when they're about 6 or 7. They love it! And it's fun to see the crazy stuff they come up with, like the hammer holder they gave Jason.

Kids Gardening Gloves - great for working out in the dirt!

super hero cape - make one yourself or buy one - either way they'll love it!

kid's swim goggles - either for swimming in the summer or just for dress up play.

yarn - a small ball of yarn or string is great for crafts or pretend play.

slipper socks - who says you can't stuff a stocking with stockings?



pocket knife - again, you judge when they're ready and direct them how to use it safely.

compact umbrella

Sunprint Kit - such a fun way to make art!

Model Magic or play dough - these take up quite a bit of space and are great for creative play

band aids - kids love having their own bandaids to be in charge of, especially if they have their favorite character on them.

jump rope

Lego minifigures- my kids have lots of Lego bricks and are always excited to see what mini figure they get when they open the package

Small Playmobil set- Lego and Playmobil are two of our favorite toy brands around here, and it's great to just add a little figure or set to their collections because I know they will be loved and played with.

bicycle bell (also could give them a basket, but that won't fit in a stocking)


whistle - just make sure they know when and where they're allowed to blow it or you might regret such a purchase

juggling scarves or balls

Cookie Cutters - for the budding baker, you can also include an apron and all sorts of fun supplies!

dried fruit - my kids love dried mango and we usually include a package or two in their stockings every year.

mini boxes of cereal - bonus, christmas morning breakfast is taken care of!


Chocolate Gold Coins

combs, brushes, and other toiletries

Belts, ties, scarves

gloves, hats, and mittens


Magic Wand  - I don't know any child who doesn't like pretending they have a magic wand, and these light up ones are really fun

Card Games - some of our favorites are Sleeping Queens, Rat-A-Tat-Cat, and Set. Also, my boys love getting new Pokemon Cards!

Orange - It's always been a tradition for us to have an orange in the toe of the stocking, but you could always do a nice Chocolate Orange instead. 

What are your favorite things to stuff in a stocking?

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such fun and creative ideas for kids' stockings! Not your usual list.