Photo Challenge 2015

Are you always taking pictures of your kids? Or do you need to take more? 

I recently got a new camera. I have wanted a nice one for a while and my sweet husband came home from Black Friday shopping with an early Christmas/5 year anniversary surprise for me! I always said that when I got a camera I really wanted to learn how to use it. I can
point and shoot" with my phone or a less expensive camera, so I really want to  learn how to shoot in manual.

Regardless to what camera you have, please join me in this photo challenge! I have been thinking about some new year goals and like I said, I want to learn how to use my camera, but I also love taking pictures of my little ones, which is why I wanted a camera to begin with... so after looking at several photo challenges I came across this one that I am really excited about. There are 75 photos to take, so 1-2 a week. That's manageable right?

Ring in the New Year with Toddlers

Gone are the days that I go to a New Year's party and stay up until midnight drinking way too much caffeine and junk food. New Year's has always been one of my favorite holidays. My best friend growing up and I spent many New Year's Eves plotting our plan and toilet papering this boy in the neighborhoods house. We would always have to take her dog for a walk the next morning with hopes to catch a glimpse of him cleaning it up. One year he caught us and chased us down the street and made us help him clean it up. I remember New Years 2000 all to well with our matching shirts that said 2000, Millenium and New Years printed all over them, except hers was blue and mine was red.

New Years is still one of my favorite holidays even with little ones. How will you spend your evening? This was last year. I can't remember all the activities we did, but scroll down to find some ideas with what we have planned this year!

The eve before New Years Eve once the kids are in bed, we take all the tree decorations down and replace them with balloons, fun glasses and hats, streamers, etc. All found at the Dollar Store or a party store. It is such a fun surprise for the kids to wake up to. They immediately know that the day is going to be special! 

You will also want to plan your activities and type/write them out on paper and put one activity in each balloon with a time counting down to your "midnight". Our midnight is 7pm.  (see picture above for balloons with times)

Here is a list of activities, not in any particular order. 

dinner- we have made it a tradition to go get pizza at The Pie Pizzeria 

balloon painting- we did this last year. 
material needed: balloons
                                paper plates

blow up balloons (don't fill them up too much), poor just a little paint on paper plate, dip the balloon and stamp onto paper. it makes the most fun marble look. 

paint nails (just the girls of course! ;) we will have to come up with an activity that dad and brother can do together while we paint nails. maybe shoot some hoops or make paper airplanes? )

funfetti playdough

find the recipe here - we are excited to try this! 

bake and decorate cookies - in all honesty we will probably just do slice and bake sugar cookies this year, but here is a good recipe if you are up for baking some up from scratch! (I just took a look at the recipe myself and we just may  need to make them! we'll see if i'm up for the challenge! ) And here is my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe! It's a rule to eat one right away, but save one for "midnight". Find plastic "champage" glasses at the Dollar Store and balance the cookie on top. "So darling" as my 3 year old would say!

make a noise maker

follow the link here

or make these! 

blow bubbles

We love these bubbles from Gymboree. 

dance party- The station Kidz Bop on Pandora provides some fun dancing music!

make snack necklaces- use anything with holes in the middle- cereals, pretzels, cookies, lifesavers, candy such as peach rings

Make it fun! Ringing in the new year with toddlers/children isn't so bad! :)


You Need a Budget

You need a budget! My husband and I have been married almost 5 years now and in our married life our circumstances have changed from him finishing school and working part time and me working full time to having a baby and he working full time and figuring out having me stay home. I have been blessed to be able to stay home shortly after our first year of marriage when our almost 4 year old Sage joined our family. Our financial circumstances have changed again and again. It was especially difficult to create a budget when he was being paid commission. We always have been able to pay our bills and have never had much if any credit card debt, but we have never really budgeted. Occasionally we would make it a goal to sit down and go over our finances in hopes to save some money and it almost always ended with me crying.

 I did not like talking finances... until a friend of mine introduced me to YNAB- You Need A Budget. We have tried to follow Dave Ramsey and have read his Total Money Makeover and we had tried Mint and creating our own spreadsheet, but decided to give YNAB a try. There was and is a free month trial. After the first month we knew it was the perfect program for us. We were discussing our budget and finances daily and without any tears on my end or frustration on my husbands end. We were on the same page and knew every cent of our money coming in and where every cent of our money was going. 6 months later, we have saved more than we have saved in 4 years of marriage and are making progress to our goals. We take a few minutes every night to discuss and make sure we are on the same page. It is so easy and life changing that I wanted to share this program with all of you, especially right now at the end of the year, during this sometimes financially stressful season. It doesn't have to be! A new year is around the corner! Check out this program! I promise if you give it a chance you will love it as much as us!  The program costs $60 for a lifetime membership and is worth every penny. Check it out here


Stocking Stuffers

Stocking stuffers are so much fun. I always looked forward to seeing what St. Nick put in my stocking. Without fail I remember always having an orange at the bottom (It fits perfect in the toe). I don't believe stocking stuffers need to be anything expensive or elaborate. That is what is so much fun about stuffing stockings... being creative to fill it without breaking the bank with things that will fit inside. The possibilities are endless.

Some of my favorite places to find things are:
  • Target dollar spot
  • Michaels Craft Store has dollar bins as well
  • Dollar Store
  • Joannes Craft Store- I love getting craft items there that can't be found in the dollar bins and better quality than the Dollar Store because they have an awesome coupon policy that allows you to use competitors coupons. You can use several coupons in the same transaction as long as they have different barcodes. With 40%-50% off coupons you can get fun craft items for just a few dollars.
  • Be aware and on the look out that Children's Place has $1 doorbusters on their hats, gloves and scarves usually sometime after Thanksgiving. 

Practical Parenting  has put together an awesome list of 50 stocking stuffer ideas. Some of these items are a little pricey for stocking stuffers in my opinion (you wouldn't find many of them on my above mentioned list of places to find stuffers), but it is worth checking out! 

Clarks Condensed also has put together a fabulous list on inexpensive stocking stuffers for toddlers.

Mother's Niche also has one of my favorite stocking stuffer lists that I personally referred to as well.

Here is my 5 favorite stocking stuffers for my little ones this year:

1.  Melissa and Doug On the Go Water Wow! I did a review on these here. Buy them at Michaels or Joanne's Craft store and use a %40 coupon!

2.  Hot Wheels Cars

3. Scarves, hats and gloves- remember this for next year! 

5.  fun socks


Gingerbread Playdough Friend Gift

My girls love playing with playdough. This year they decided to make playdough for a few friends in the neighborhood. Gingerbread Playdough smells delicious and my girls love using our gingerbread cookie cutters to make little gingerbread families. 

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cinnamon 
1/2 cup salt
2 Tbs cream of tarter
2 Tbs oil
2 cups water

Mix dry ingredients then add wet ingredients. Stir and cook over medium heat until dough sticks together in a ball. Store in an airtight container. 

We bought plastic tupperware with the red tops to store the playdough in,  printed the "Wishing you a very merry Christmas" printable we created, that you are welcome to use, added a cute little gingerbread cookie cutter bought at Michaels Craft Store and some red tulle and we have a cute little gift my girls cannot wait to deliver!


Teacher Christmas Gift Ideas

Are you in need of a teacher gift? Here are a few of my favorite ideas. 

I think this is the cutest idea! An App(le) for my teacher!

I would love this gift! A movie and popcorn! Maybe throw in a some chocolate too! 

Warm cozy socks, nail polish & lotion. I couldn't find a link to this "warm & cozy mistle toes" idea, but think it is adorable. I created the printable below to go along with the idea. You'll want to right click and save the image and then print. 

Or if your budget is a little less than the above idea this is cute with just the nail polish. 

Isn't this idea amaz'on! :)

We never have enough cozy blankets in our home. I love the cute printable for it. Check it out here.

Intermountain Health Hub

How many times have you googled symptoms? What about KidsCare after hours and locations? I absolutely love this new app from Intermountain Healthcare. Check it out and I promise there will be something that will be a benefit to you. Also, download the app and enter to win a $250 Target giftcard! 

Intermountain Healthcare has developed a free new mobile app, called “Intermountain Health Hub,” which is an all-in-one tool that makes managing healthcare easier. It gives users many different features designed to simplify their entire healthcare experience, including the ability to access their medical records while on the go. The app can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

 Here are 10 features and benefits the new app provides:
 ·        GermWatch: Find out how prevalent various germs are in Utah, and see how their activity level is trending. Learn about symptoms, how germs are spread, treatments, vaccinations, and when you should contact your doctor.
·         InstaCare and KidsCare urgent care centers:  Hold your place in line before you arrive and compare wait times by Utah location.  Also find KidsCare after-hours clinics in Utah and information for making appointments.
·       My Health: Users can access the password-protected My Health patient portal, where they can securely message their Intermountain doctor, check lab results and other parts of their medical records with Intermountain Healthcare, and review benefits and claims.
·        First aid: Get first aid tips for common injuries such as sprains, burns, cuts, etc.
·        Prescription refills: Request refills at Intermountain pharmacies and check the status of prescription requests.
·        Symptoms: Search for adult or child/baby symptoms by key word, body area, or alphabetically by topic.  Find out when you should see a doctor or call 911. Learn about self-care options.
·        Doctors: Find doctors by name, specialty, hospital, clinic, location, and save your doctors to your
“favorites” for quick reference later.
·        Locations: Find Intermountain hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies near you and save your favorites for quick reference later.
·        Pay bills: Pay Intermountain Healthcare bills by credit card or eCheck.
·        Send wishes: Send cards with personalized messages directly to patients in Intermountain hospitals.
 For information on other Intermountain Healthcare mobile apps, visit http://www.Intermountain.com/mobile.

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Polar Express Hot Chocolate "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars"

Tonight we made the most amazing hot chocolate to drink as we read The Polar Express. Not only was it thick and rich and taste like melted chocolate bars, just like is described in the book, it was super easy and only uses 3 ingredients. 

1 package of mini 3 musketeers
2 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups milk

( I don't think you can really go wrong with the measurements. Use as many candy bars and marshmallows to taste and as much milk to make it the consistency you prefer. )

Melt 3 Musketeers in a microwave safe bowl. Melt in 30 second increments, stir and heat. 
Once melted add in milk and marshmallows. Heat for 1 minute at a time until marshmallows are melted.  Wisk until smooth. Enjoy!

Makes about 3-4 servings. 

recipe adapted from this Candy Bar Hot Chocolate on food.com


One Good Thing

Do you have a family motto or mission statement?  I have been pondering one for my little family for almost a year now since I listened to this podcast by Power of Moms on crafting your family identity. It was very thought provoking as to who we want to be as a family. When we begin with the end in mind, we have a much better chance of helping our family become all the wonderful things it can be. 

Our faith is something that is really important to us and our family. I have searched the scriptures trying to find the perfect mission statement and I always come back to Joshua 24:15 "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 

With a newborn at home, Thanksgiving and the Christmas season it is hard not to feel an extra abundance of gratitude. With that feeling of gratitude comes a huge sense of wanting to give back and to serve, which is something that is always on my mind. I always wish I can do more than I can and give more than we are able, which is why I am excited to get the book Jillie Bean and the One Good Thing. It will be the perfect way to introduce our family mission statement in a way that our children can understand and excite them. 

The message is empowering to kids in this world where they can often feel like they don't measure up. Jillie Bean and the One Good Thing is a story of a Dad that teaches his daughter all about serving others by doing one “good thing” at a time.

I'm not telling anyone what their mission statement needs to be, but regardless it is a sweet message that teaches that every little thing we do adds up to a lot! Check it out here.


Christmas Story Lesson & Game

It is important to us that we take time to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Our family is doing this lesson and activity for a family night. We were gifted the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Playset and it has been the greatest gift. We bring it out with our Christmas decor and always tell the story of Christ's birth with it. 

This year we wanted to make it even more interactive for our little ones, so we created a little game to go along with telling the story. We use the book My First Story of the First Christmas, which features New Testament as well as Book of Mormon stories. You can find the book on Amazon here. There are so many books, so find one that you like! 

Ahead of time you will want to write out clues describing Jesus, Mary, the Angel Gabriel, the shepherds and the wise men. Here are the clues that I made for ours. Feel free to copy and paste them or write your own! Here are the clues we wrote and used:

  • I am the Son of God and Savior of the World. I was born in a manger. Who am I?

  • I came to Mary and told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior. Who am I?

  • I am a young woman who lived in the small town of Nazareth. Heavenly Father sent an angel named Gabriel to visit me. I am the mother of the Savior. Who am I?

  • We were watching our sheep on the hillside when an angel appeared to us. We were afraid, but the angel told us to fear not. We hurried to Bethlehem to see the baby and worship him. Who are we?

  • It took us a long time to travel to Bethlehem. When we found Jesus, we knelt down and  worshiped Him. We gave him gifts of gold, frankinscense and myrrh. Who are we?

I typed mine out and mounted them on red cardstock, but you can simply write each clue out on a piece of paper. 

After telling the story we sent our little ones on a hunt for the pieces to the nativity. After they returned with all the pieces we read each clue and had them pick out who we were describing. Afterwards, have them retell the story of Christmas using the playset and enjoy playing together! 

Blessing Bags

Blessing bags: Bags/kits put together with love to give to the homeless

1. Collect Items (Dollar Tree or Target/Walmart 
carry travel size items for $1 are good places to look. )
2. Assemble into ziplock bags
3. Put in the car
4. Hand them out as you see someone in need
5. Feel a huge sense of love and happiness 

My little family put these together a few weeks ago as we made a list of all our blessings and talked about all the things and people for which we are grateful. If you search "blessing bags" on Pinterest there is a plethora of ideas. Our little family did what we could and our bags included tissues, hand warmers, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, bandaids, snacks and water bottle (not pictured). However, the possibilities are endless what you can include in these bags. Here is a list of possibilities:

hand warmers
first aid kit
travel size shampoo/body wash/lotion
bar of soap
wet wipes
gift cards to restraunts
water bottle
fruit snacks
fruit cups with spoon
pudding cups with spoon
granola/protein bars
list of shelters or food banks in the area
words of encouragement