Christmas 2013

This year we traveled for Christmas, we just returned home yesterday after a week away.... my house is a disaster, everyone in the house has been sick, I haven't slept in a week, but it was a fantastic holiday.  It was filled with lots of family, friends, laughter, and love.

We stayed at my in-laws house, and spent a lot of our time with the kids cousins.   There are 9 kids total on that side of the family, and they are all really close in age.  7 of the nine are age 4 and about chaos!

Christmas Eve we went to an early Mass and then spent the evening at my SIL's house.  

Church was a major struggle.  The kids are very used to Mass, as we go almost every week, but JD was sick, the small chapel was crowded, they were hyper, and it was just a mess.  

When we got home the kids set out cookies for Santa, and Joshua decided he was feeling well enough to share the Santa cookies!  

Christmas morning was so fun.  Christmas Day was great.  Lots of family.  It was also extra special celebrating Joshua's very 1st Christmas.  He had a good day, and pushed through even though being terribly sick.  

I am hoping to get back to a regular posting schedule soon.... but every time someone starts feeling better, another gets sick.  Also up next is JD's 1st Birthday celebration!!!  

Midweek Confessions : Holiday Style

Today I am linking up with Elizabeth from E, Myself, and I for some midweek confessions....

{one} First off, did y'all read E's post about Elf on the Shelf..... pure amazingness! We don't do the elf thing, and well I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to tell the kids when they ask one day why an elf doesn't come visit them... I really would love to tell them that their mama makes them behave all year long, so Santa doesn't find the need to send an effing creepy elf to our house.....but luckily the kids haven't asked. #joking #maybenot

{two} Today was Lillian's Christmas program at school, and let me tell you she looked adorable. I got so many compliments.  And yea, you know how there is always that one kid that just screams the words to "away in a manger" to sound the loudest....and the parents think it's cute, unless it's your kid and you slump down but hold the video camera up even higher, just to be sure you have the evidence as payback during the terrible teenage years.... #thatsmydaughter #atleastshescute

{three}  I swear I did not go overboard with buying presents this year, I actually think I did pretty well.  Yet somehow, I feel we will be playing tetras trying to fit everything in the car.  Why does this happen every year. 

{four}  My 2 big kids wrote with crayon on my van seats a few weeks ago.... yes I am still furious, and no I haven't cleaned it up yet....

Alright.  That is all for today.  I have now completely made nap time into "Samantha reads and plays online time instead of getting real work done".  Man I am never going to be ready to leave this weekend.

Decorating Gingerbread Houses

Decorating Gingerbread houses is a tradition that we started when Matthew was young.  We have been doing it for years now, and something the kids, and I always enjoy.  A few things about decorating gingerbread houses, it is messy, it is hard to watch if you are type A (like me), Grandmas, Aunts, and Uncles are awesome at supervising! 

A look back on our houses in the past...



The train, that was Mommy's that no one was allowed to help!

And now debuting the 2013 Gingerbread house creations....

And now some helpful hints!
1.  If you don't plan on eating any of your Gingerbread house, I find using hot glue to assemble the house is so much more sturdy, easy, and less time consuming.  Of course this would be an adult job.  If you are using icing to assemble, try to do that hours before you want to decorate, so the icing sets and makes the house less fragile. 

2.  Give yourself plenty of time and focus.  I would let my preschoolers do this type of activity while I am say making dinner in the kitchen.  We did ours on a Sunday afternoon, while the baby was napping, so the kids had my full attention. 

3.  Buy some extra goodies.  The candy that comes with the kit is great, but it is always fun to add more.  This year I added marshmallows, sugar gingerbread men and candy canes, and chocolate chips.  The options are endless.

4.  Cover your table.  I just used the place mats we had there, but I should have covered the entire table.  Expect a mess.  Be ready for the clean up!

5.  Sit back and let the kiddos take the lead.  This is SO hard for me to do, but they really enjoy making their own creation.   

6. Make a party out of it.  Last year we had a play date with friends dedicated to decorating gingerbread houses.  We simply used graham crackers that a mom per-assembled into houses, everyone brought toppings and we had a great time.  


Just because I am a stay at home mom....

.....doesn't mean my house is always spotless.
....doesn't mean I want to sit and play barbies for hours.
.....doesn't mean my family eats a home cooked meal every night.
.....doesn't mean I have time/energy to workout everyday.
.....doesn't mean I don't need a good night sleep and should get up every time someone cries.
....doesn't mean I have time to be room mom, PTO lady, take snack to soccer every week lady.
.....doesn't mean I sit in front of the tv eating bon bons during nap time.
.....doesn't mean I need paint, do crafts, and spend every waking minute giving my children attention.

Some days (like yesterday) I breakdown, seeing myself a failure because I just wanted a half an hour of quiet, sitting to myself.  Not telling my 6 year old to clean up yet another mess, listening to my 4 year old go on and on and on and on and on and on all day....wonder where she gets that from, not pulling my 11 month old away from the bathroom door dozens of times a minute.  It isn't always perfect.  It's never perfect.  I am never going to play with my kids as much as I should, while having a spotless house, and a hot delicious dinner on the table each night. 

I don't know why I expect that out of myself.  I would think after 6 years of being a mother I would realize that my house will be clean in about 17 years when my children are gone......and I don't even want to think about that.

No matter how tiring, loud, exhausting, annoying, frustrating, gross, or messy each day gets, it is worth it.  It. Is. Worth. It.

Because I am a stay at home mom.....

....means I get to see every milestone.
....means I get to kiss every boo boo.
....means I get to cheer every base hit.
....means I get to be the homework helper each day.
.....and the snack maker.
....means I do occasionally if the stars align get to lay down for about 20 during nap time and close my eyes. Which is my saving grace. 
...means I get to be the first one they see after school dismissal.
....means I get to be the one to hear all about their adventures at school.
.....means I get to smell the straight out of the bath and into pjs smell.
.....means I get the bedtime snuggles reading stories.
.....means I get the good night kisses and I Love You Mommy.

Christmas Pajama Party!

The Christmas Spirit is in full swing around here, we are decorated, been doing our advent activity each day, and are very excitedly counting down the days until we leave for PA.

See for us, December 21st is the start.  We make the 5 hour trip to my husband's parents house.  The days leading up to Christmas are filled with family, fun, hopefully snow, and (fingers crossed) a date night for Mommy and Daddy!

My shopping is done, wrapping is close, still trying to decide the best way to travel with gifts that peeking eyes shouldn't be seeing....(any tips, y'all?)

Today I am linking up with a few of my favorite blogs to join in on the pj party fun! 

Matthew is starting to outgrow the cutesie jammies.  This year I just went plain for him.  Lilly has probably 5 pair, this is a Carters fleece Jammie dress.  For JD I also have options, the fleece footed pjs from Carters are my favorite, the carters pair he has on are cute, and he has a pair from baby Gap as well (great place to find pjs!)

This year we are extremely excited, because we are once again celebrating a 1st Christmas.  To think I was weeks away from having Joshua at this time last year, worrying he would arrive early, putting my in the hospital on the 25th.

Now a look back on each First Christmas PJs.....

{Matthew- 4 months old : December 2007}

{Lillian- 6 months old: Christmas Eve 2009}

{Joshua- 11 months old: December 2013}

Be sure to visit Darci, Natasha, Ashley, Jenny, and Julie to check out all the fun!

Also follow me on Instagram to see our PJs of the day today!

Joshua - 11 Months

Every month I take these photos, and ALWAYS think I got no good shots.  I think I am going to have to take them again another day.  The truth is, these monthly updates aren't about the perfect photos, they are about documenting Joshua at the stage he is at.  Capturing the looks that have changed, the personality, the little things that I never want to forget. 

Joshua is cruising on furniture, walls, anything really, he loves making his big sis hold his hands to walk him around, but no standing or walking yet.  I know he could if he would just let go!  He is waving, saying hi, saying mama, and climbing stairs like a champ.

He has really become a Daddy's boy recently.  He is realizing that Daddy is the fun one, that makes bedtime interesting.  I am the only one who can put him down.  If he wakes in the night, it has to be me to get up and go in, he sees Daddy he thinks it's play time.

 He really is starting to act like the baby of the family, being the youngest sibling myself, now that I think of it, my husband is too, he is starting to realize all the attention is on him.  His brother and sister think he is hilarious, which makes him act out even more.  

We are all so excited for the coming weeks.  Last year all I could think was how I didn't want to be in the hospital over Christmas, and here we are already a year later.  1st Christmases are always so special and exciting.  Last year we had to make the decision to stay home to be close to the doctor/hospital, this year we are packing up and heading back to Pennsylvania to be with family. 

Finding Balance

 We had the best 5 days over Thanksgiving.  The kids had off school, Matt had off work, and I took a step away from most social media and the blog.  It was nice.  We had a great time preparing for Thanksgiving, enjoying the day with family, then shopping, decorating, and more shopping.

And then, Monday arrived.  I had a ton of housework to catch up on, and although the decorating was complete, there was a lot of clean up from that.  I felt bad I had neglected my blog.  I realized that during the holidays, there is a lot to be done, things I love doing, but still a lot.  I should never feel guilty for not posting on the blog because I am instead spending time with my family, relaxing, and just taking a break.  

So, over the next few weeks, I am going to KISS (keep it simple stupid).  I want to document the holiday season, especially being Joshua's first, I want to stay on the momentum I have of posting pretty much every week day.  I just am shifting the content for a bit.  

Most likely it will be less organization (just for this month), and projects.  More about family.  Because that is what the holidays are all about.

Taking the time to still capture and share moment, but not missing them in the process.

25 Days of Christmas: 25 Ways To Spread Love This Season

During the stressful times the holidays can bring, it is so hard to remember to spread some cheer.  Also giving back to others is so important and something we like to really teach our children this time of year.

25 Ways To Spread Love This Season

1. Send Holiday Cards.
2. Be an Angel.  Our church is where we do this, but schools, hospitals, and other organizations give people the opportunity to buy gifts for children and families in need.
3. Donate toys and clothes to charity. 
5. When going through the drive through, purchase the meal (or coffee) order for the car behind you. This story is amazing, cars paid it forward 55 times!
6. Help Someone carry groceries out to their car.
7. Leave random Holiday cards on cars in a parking lot.
8. Buy a bunch of travel size items and give to a person asking for spare change.  Love This idea.
9. Go through your cupboards and donate to your local food shelter.
10. Visit the Fire Station with some homemade goodies.  ( I saw this on I Love You More Than Carrots and LOVE IT!)
11. Leave an extra nice tip while at a restaurant.
12. Donate some of your old books to your child's school.
13. Send a sweet treat into your spouses office for him to share with co-workers.
14. Thank a service member.
15. Leave unused coupons on the shelf at the grocery store.
17. Help an elderly family member with their shopping or decorating.
18. If you are able, donate blood.
19. Offer to babysit for a friend.
20. Purchase some new school supplies for you child's teacher.
21. Leave some change on a random vending machine.
22. While Holiday shopping, add the extra dollar to your bill to support St. Jude.  (My Goal this year is to say "yes" every time I am asked.)
23. Shovel your neighbors sidewalks.
24. If traveling this holiday season, pay the toll for the car behind you.
25. Invite someone to celebrate the holiday with you who may not have family nearby.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I have plenty of years for fancy tables, with delicate, breakable decor.  For now, and this season of my life..... my favorite site is the artwork of my children, their ideas on how to decorate the room for the holiday.  Every year we make paper chains for Thanksgiving, we keep the table simple, full of color and fun.  

{Flower Centerpiece: picked out by Lilly from Costco / small flanking candles: Target / Place Cards: Free Printable /   Kid Plates: Pottery Barn Kids (2 years ago) / "Gobble" sign: from a local craft fair}

25 Days of Christmas: 25 Holiday Treats

Christmas time to me, means sweat treats.  I love baking and sharing goodies with family and friends.  So here are 25 of my favorite Holiday Treats.

My original idea when sharing my list was linking to recipes I have shared here on the blog.  Well, turns out I really haven't shared any of my own recipes.  #goalfor2014.  Anyway, I have found some of my favorites from other blogs and such online!

To keep things simple during the holidays, I love using cake mixes as a starting point for cookie recipes.  I also prefer doing drop cookies instead of roll out, it saves so much time.

Remember homemade items make great gifts, but keep in mind that allergies are everywhere, so be sure you know the recipient isn't allergic to ingredients used!

Kitchen Organization: A Mini Kitchen Office

As a mom I feel like I spend most of my days in my kitchen.  I am always making, feeding or cleaning up a meal.  I am constantly multitasking while making dinner, trying to catch up on everything.  

Everyone has it, the "junk drawer".  A catch all for the things that have no other home.  Things that could put put away in other locations, but then would no longer be easily accessible.  Well instead of just a drawer, I have taken it a bit farther. 

My kitchen set up doesn't leave me any space for a junk drawer, so I had to utilize what I had, and make it work.

The actual piece of furniture I am using is relatively new to me, but anything but new.  It is estimated by my grandmother to be nearly 100 years old.  It has been refinished, and a piece I am so glad to have in my home. 

The top I keep clean and simple.  It holds our telephone, and then just some small seasonal decorations.  For now it is fall, but will transition to Christmas in just a week.  

Inside, I have taken full advantage of the compartments already in place.  I have also added some of my own organizational elements, all of which are from Target.

Lastly, also in my kitchen, I have 2 small drawers which I use one to hide my husbands things he just happens to leave lying around, and the other contains all of our take-out menus.

If you'd like a closer look, please head over to my YouTube channel, where I go more in-depth into what I actually keep in here.

25 Days Of Christmas: 25 Family Movies

One of my favorite things to do during the month of December is snuggling up and watching a Christmas movie.  Whether with my kids or husband, I love it.  This list is part movies we watch as a family, and some we watch once they go to bed.  Depending on the age of your children, the list of what you let them watch may change.  Below is the list of Must Watch Movies during the holiday season.

25 Christmas Movies

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. We ALWAYS start with this movie.  Black Friday night, after we have shopped, decorated, and put the kids to bed, we snuggle up and watch this.(Get It!) 
2. The Polar Express.  Just like the book, this is the kids favorite.(Get It!)
3.The Santa Claus. (Get It!)
4. The Santa Claus 2. (Get It!)
5. The Santa Claus 3. (Get It!)
6. Home Alone. (Get It!)
7. Home Alone 2. (Get It!)
8. A Charlie Brown Christmas. (Get It!)
9. Christmas With The Kranks. (Get It!)
10. A Christmas Carol.(Get It!)
11. Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. (Animated) (Get It!)
12.Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. (Jim Carey)(Get It!)
13.Jingle All The Way. (Get It!)
14.Fred Claus. (Get It!)
15.Surviving Christmas. (Get It!)
16.The Family Stone. (Get It!)
17.Santa Buddies. (Get It!)
18.Four Christmases. (Get It!)
19.Deck The Halls. (Get It!)
20.Mickey's Christmas Carol. (Get It!)
21.Elf. (Get It!)
22. Frosty The Snowman. (Get It!)
23.Santa Claus is Coming To Town. (Get It!)
24. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. (Get It!)
25. A Christmas Story. (Get It!)

Also remember ABC Family has a great line up of Movies every year!  We usually don't watch them live, but rather DVR them for the coming days/weeks.

And a ton of kid's favorite character shows also have Christmas episodes/specials.  Netflix or your cables On Demand Feature are great to find these.

For me, I also love the Lifetime/Hallmark Channel movies as well.  I usually DVR them and watch while wrapping gifts, packing to travel, or relaxing in the evening.

Be sure to check out my Book List as well, and check back for more on my 25 Days of Christmas Series!