How to Make a Happy Planner Squad Girls Ornament

Learn how to make a happy planner squad girls ornament with just a few materials in less than 15 minutes.

how to make a happy planner squad girls ornament
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Hey planner babes! Welcome to my new tutorial on how to make a Happy Planner Squad Girls ornament. This year, I spent time making lots of different Happy Planner ornaments and this is just one of the cute ideas that I came up with. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for lots of fun Happy Planner themed Christmas tutorials.

This cute ornament is filled with fake snow and looks like the squad girls are skiing in your ornament. This craft is very easy to make and you can do all kinds of fun scenes. This craft took me less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish. I’ve made a video for you to follow along with and I’ve also provided written instructions below. I really encourage you to watch the video since the instructions were hard to describe in writing. While you are there, please subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to follow my Instagram for daily inspiration.

Materials

  • Snow globe ornament (mine purchased at Hobby Lobby)
  • Fake snow
  • Squad Goals Sticker Book
  • Clear Acetate
  • Scissors
  • Foam Double Sided Tape
  • Super glue (optional)

Time needed: 15 minutes.

Squad Girls Happy Planner Ornament

  1. Open up your snow globe

  2. Cut your acetate

    Cut down your acetate to a manageable sheet about 6 x 8″ and score in the middle

  3. Place stickers

    Pick out the stickers you want to use. Lay your scored acetate down so that half is flat on the table and the other half stands up towards you. Place your stickers about and inch to two inches on the acetate. You may need to reposition the stickers depending on where you want them to be.

  4. Trim down your acetate

    Trim down your acetate by cutting off any excess acetate around your sticker. Then trip your base in a half moon shape. You only need an inch or two. While you’re trimming, trim a little at a time, making sure it fits well in your globe.

  5. Apply Foam Tape

    Apply double sided foam tape to the bottom of your base. Adhere to the bottom of the globe.

  6. Add snow

    Carefully, add your fake snow. Close globe and shake gently until snow is evenly distributed.

  7. Secure

    For added security, super glue your ornament for added protection once you are certain no other adjustments are necessary

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10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Make Christmas magical together as a family. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start this year.

10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start

This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Growing up in a Catholic family, I loved going to midnight mass. It was the one time of year I was allowed to stay up late. The church was lit with flickering beeswax candles and bright red poinsettias were scattered over the alter. The choir filled the nave of the church with beautiful Christmas hymns. It was such a magical, spiritual experience. Traditions like this are so special. They create memories for us to look back on and think of fondly. They can also connect us at a time where busyness can overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.

There are lots of traditions you can start like taking holiday photos together. Perhaps you take them in front of the tree in the same positions so you can watch everyone change and grow throughout the years. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions you can start right now.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Light An Advent Wreath

In the Catholic Church as well as the Luthern Church, Advent wreaths are used to celebrate the four weeks in the liturgical calendar leading to Christmas. The wreath, also contains 4 candles. Traditionally, three purple and one pink. Sometimes there is white candle in the center. Some protestant wreaths, particularly in Europe use red candles. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world. Each week one candle is lit and is accompanied by prayers, scripture reading or Christmas devotional. Each week, an additional candle is lit until Christmas arrives and they are all lit. In the Catholic Church, this is typically done during the celebration of the mass, but it is also very common to have an advent wreath at home.

You don’t need to be of a certain denomination to use it. The wreath is about taking a moment of solemnity to remember the reason for Christmas – Christ and his coming into the world for us. If you’re looking for an Advent Wreath, I recommend these below.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start
Courtesy of Pexels

Celebrate With an Advent Calendar

In our family, we celebrate the holidays by using an Advent calendar. An advent calendar counts down the days of Advent (4 weeks) before Christmas. Normally, each day on the calendar has a door, window or pocket to be opened one per day as you count down. Traditionally, a chocolate, trinket, or small toy is placed as a gift for whomever opens the door.

In my family, we don’t put gifts in it. Instead, we put memory-making activities on slips of paper. Every day, we remove the slip of paper and read that evening’s activity. Some are simple, like making hot chocolate together, watching a Christmas movie, or reading Twas The Night Before Christmas. Other are more time-intensive like building a gingerbread house or doing a Christmas craft as a family. To read my full list of activities see my post, The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List.

I can’t begin to tell you how special this has become to our family. With all the crazy rushing of Christmas, this helps us take some time as a family every evening and make Christmas magical for each other. Here are some of my favorite Amazon Advent Calendars.

Watch the Polar Express In Pajamas

One thing we do with our kids every year is watch The Polar Express. True to the story, we wait until it’s bedtime and once the kids are in their pajamas we surprise them with the movie. We serve hot chocolate at the same time they are serving it aboard the train to the kids. I even give my kids a golden ticket and a bell. It makes for a very special, magical evening. It’s something my husband and I really love doing for our kids.

Read the Nativity Story in Luke

One easy, beautiful tradition you can start is by simply reading the Gospel as a family. With all the focus on gifts, Santa, and holiday parties, the true reason for Christmas – Christ – can be easily swept under the rug. Taking time out as a family to read the living word of God helps to instill a focus on Christ. The most descriptive version of the nativity story can be found in Luke Chapter 2:1-20. We like to read it on Christmas Eve fireside.

family at Christmas

Ornament Exchange

When I married my husband, I learned his parents had kept a beautiful tradition going for forty years. Every year, the two exchanged ornaments. It had almost developed into a playful competition that the kids, now grown, still enjoyed witnessing. So when my husband and I got married, we agreed to continue that tradition. It’s actually quite special. It’s fun to hunt for that perfect ornament and it’s a lovely gift to look forward to on Christmas morning.

The exchange doesn’t have to be between mom and dad. It can be between anyone. Kids and parents. Siblings. Grandparents. Use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be bought either. One thing our family does as a tradition is make ornaments every year as a part of our advent calendar. My husband and I also collect them from everywhere we travel. One of our trees in our home is an eclectic mix of our collected ornaments over the years. We often gaze upon them and recall all those special trips and moments when we got them.

Help the Less Fortunate

Christmas is a time for giving alms, that is, filling a material need for someone who is less fortunate than us. As Christians, we are called to acts of charity towards our fellow brothers and sisters and Christmas seems to inspire a giving attitude.

Our family does several things at Christmas time. First, we give to the bell ringers of Salvation Army. You can find them outside departments stores. This is especially meaningful to me. You see, when my mom was a child they were very poor and she was the recipient of the used, donated toys from Salvation Army at Christmastime. Second, we fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritans Purse. For some children, it is the first gift they’ve ever received. Moreover, it is an opportunity to introduce the love of Christ around the world as the program continues to minister to the children through a discipleship program.

Lastly we find local charities to help. We donate food to our local food pantry. In addition, we donate goods to our two main homeless shelters SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope. If you have children, get them involved. Instill in them a spirit for helping others. Christmas time is a great opportunity to spread the love of Christ with acts of kindness.

Make a Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate is a staple of winter. I love making hot chocolate. More importantly, I love turning it into a fun event for my family and friends. For about seven years, I’ve been making a hot chocolate bar. Fill a slow cooker with hot chocolate so everyone can serve themselves. Then offer loads of toppings, syrups, and flavors. Kids love loading their cups with marshmallows and candies.

I make it fun for adults too. I love to include adult liqueurs like Frangelico, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Amaretto, etc. It’s actually quite fun to see adults get excited over it and every year people ask me about it. I set up the bar at the beginning of the season and it stays up all December. Then I keep the dry toppings in mason jars. I screw them up when they aren’t in use and open them up when gets come and make a hot crockpot of hot chocolate.

Read my post How to Make a Hot Chocolate Bar for the exact instructions on how to make one! By the way, I have the very best hot chocolate recipe you’ll ever have! You’ll never use another one after you try it.

Hot chocolate bar

Get Your Craft On

When it’s cold outside, indoor activities like crafting can be a fun way to spend time together. As I mentioned earlier, one thing we do is make an ornament every year. I also send out homemade Christmas cards to all our friends and family. It’s like my personal gift to each and everyone of them.

In fact, in my first marriage, my in-laws had a very special idea. One year, instead of buying gifts, we made gifts. This was one of the most special Christmases I’d ever had. It was amazing to see what everyone came up with. My ex-husband found some copper pipes left over from a house repair and put together a gorgeous copper wind chime. I broke down some old chipped dishes into pieces and created a mosaic trivet for my mother-in-law. Everyone came up with different ideas. I can’t even describe how taking the commercialism out of presents affected us. There was something so magical about that Christmas!

There are lots of things you can make and you can turn it into a family affair. Last year we made some DIY Christmas swags. It’s super easy! Even if it’s a total Pinterest fail, the memory of how awful it was will become one of those funny family stories. It’s all about making memories. Here are some things you can try:

  • Handmade Christmas cards
  • Homemade gifts
  • Make Ornaments
  • Gift Tags
  • Paint nutcrackers
  • Christmas sign
  • Make a Wreath or Garland
  • Hand stamped wrapping paper
  • Festive Decor

Look At Christmas Lights

This may not be a new one for you, but I’m including it because I think it is underestimated at times. Since we’ve been married, my husband and I have made this an annual tradition. Neighborhoods are fun to explore, but we enjoy a local commercial light display even more. We go to Santa’s Ranch, which is drive-thru property full of more than 1.5 million lights.

We bring lots of warm, cozy blankets and hot chocolate in a thermos, Christmas cookies, and sweets. Then pile in the car with Holiday tunes on the car radio. We always ask friends or family to come with us. It’s such a fun way to spend a frosty evening!

Additionally, some places to a live nativity. If you’ve never been to one, it’s impressive! These are often done by churches. They use sets, live people and animals to recreate scenes from the nativity story in the Bible. Normally you either walk or drive through the scenes. It’s so beautiful! Simple pleasures spent together are often the memories we cherish.

Christmas Eve Boxes

If you haven’t heard of Christmas Eve boxes, I’m excited to tell you. Christmas Eve boxes are curated boxes you give to family members in anticipation of Christmas. Think of them almost like gift baskets filled with everything they need for Christmas Eve night.

Some people only prepare them for the kiddos while others treat the adults to the fun-filled Christmas box too! Because, we’re all kids at heart, right? Traditionally, the boxes include pajamas, snacks, a Christmas book, and or a movie.

You don’t have to necessarily put them in boxes. I know someone who stuffs stockings with all the goodies. You can find my full tutorial on how to make Christmas Eve boxes here. I have lots of ideas on what to fill them with.

Make Christmas Magical

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start. Be sure to PIN this post for later and share it on social media to inspire others. Also, before you go be sure to subscribe to my blog for FREE printables, giveaways and other fun goodies. Have a Merry Christmas!

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How to Make a Christmas Eve Box

Create a special family tradition when you learn how to make a Christmas Eve box to usher in the Christmas spirit for your child.

how to make a Christmas Eve box

Christmas is such a magical time for both children and parents. As parents we get to experience the magic and wonder of Christmas through the eyes of our innocent babes. This year, we are starting a new tradition, we’re making Christmas Eve boxes for our little ones. This tradition stems from a German tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.

I’ve heard a few families say they do this instead of hanging and filling stockings, but it’s up to you. Personally, I decided to do it because I was already going to buy and do these things for Christmas anyway. Putting it together like a gift, just makes it more special. The idea is that you create a box filled with Christmas goodies. Traditionally, you would give your child this box on Christmas Eve, but I know some families instead give this box the day after Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday season. There are no rules. I, however, am giving this to my little guys on Christmas Eve. It will have their pajamas, a movie we’ll watch, a Christmas bedtime story and snacks. I’m hoping it gets them excited about going to bed early on Christmas Eve!

How to Make a Christmas Eve Box

Get Your Box

You can use any box you wish. Some families simply use a large gift box. Others use a wooden crate, available for purchase at any craft store. Etsy has some amazing sellers who make personalized boxes to be used year after year. Really you can use any container, so long that it’s big enough. The buffalo plaid one I’m using in my picture was purchased at Hobby Lobby. It comes with a lid. If you are doing it on a budget, you can cover a shoe box with festive wrapping paper.

Ideas for Your Christmas Eve Box

Obviously you can put anything you want in the boxes. In fact, I encourage you to make it your own. However, if you are looking for some suggestions here are a few.

  • Christmas Pajamas
  • Snacks (Candy, Popcorn, Cookies, etc)
  • A Christmas movie
  • Christmas socks / slippers
  • Reindeer Food (see “recipe” below)
  • Snowman Soup (see recipe below)
  • Special Ornament
  • Christmas storybook
  • Christmas coloring book
  • A small toy
  • Novelty Toothbrush
  • Prayer book
  • Christmas mug (for snowman soup)

You can add any combination of items to your box. This year, I’m adding Christmas themed pajamas, a story book, a Christmas movie and some homemade bunuelos, some reindeer food and snowman soup.

Snowman soup is just hot chocolate mix presented in a cute way. Reindeer food is a cute idea. It’s just oats and glitter. Have your little ones sprinkle the mixture on your lawn to feed Santa’s reindeers when they land. Cookies for Santa; Reindeer food for the Reindeers. It’s just another way to make it more magical for the kids. See below for exact instructions. However, you can also use bird seed instead of oats. I’ve made some cute printable bag toppers. I recommend printing them out on white card stock. You can download them below.

Also, while we’re at it, there is no reason why this has to be only for children. You can tailor it for adults. You can even add some grown up additions like mini liquor bottles and liqueur flavored chocolates.

how to make a Christmas Eve box
how to make a Christmas Eve box

How to Make Snowman Soup

Time needed: 10 minutes.

How to Make Snowman Soup

  1. Gather the following ingredients

    Packet of instant hot chocolate, mini marshmallows, candy cane, and a zip lock bag (sandwich size)

  2. Pour ingredients into bag

    Open the packet of instant hot chocolate. Add marshmallows and candy cane. Seal bag.

  3. Print printable bag topper

    Print the bag topper or make your own and staple to the top of the zip lock bag.

snowman soup

How to Make Reindeer Food

  1. Gather Ingredients: Oats & glitter (any color you wish)
  2. Pour into ziplock and seal bag
  3. Shake well
  4. Print printable bag topper and staple on top
how to make a Christmas Eve box

Thank you so much for reading. Please share this post on social media or PIN it for later. I hope you and your little ones have a magical Christmas. Be sure to subscribe to my blog for more fun ideas.

Thank A Mail Carrier Basket

With all the online shopping mail carriers are busier than ever. Today, I’ll show you how to put together a Thank a mail carrier basket full of snacks, water and goodies to let them know you appreciate them and their hard work.

thank a mail carrier

A Thankless Job

Being a mail carrier is quite a thankless job. Especially around the holidays. I knew the same mail carrier Cliff who worked for UPS and was on my dad’s business route for many years. The holidays were always busy. He worked such long hours, often skipped lunch, and was always dealing with problems of missing and damaged packages. During the holidays it was stressful.

These days, so much of our Christmas shopping is done online and families are sending care packages and gifts across the country more than ever. Many employees from carrier companies and the postal service, work demanding schedules around the holidays to make sure our needs are met.

So my family decided to make them feel noticed and appreciated while they are busy on their route by offering them some snacks and drinks. It’s a small act of kindness, that hopefully brightens their day. We love doing acts of kindness around the holidays. We actually add it to our advent calendar (Christmas Bucket List) every year! If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to read my post, 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays.

How to Make Your “Thank A Mail Carrier” Basket

First, it doesn’t have to be a basket. You can use any container to pack with a few goodies. I use a wire basket with a Christmas bow. Next you’ll need a sign. You can make your own sign with a message. However, I’ve taken some of the work out for you by making a printable one. You can download it below. I recommend printing it on white cardstock.

Next, fill your container with whatever goodies you like. Here are a list of some of the things we put in ours.

  • Granola Bars
  • Mints
  • Water
  • Soda
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Candy
Thank a mail carrier

Other Ways to Thank Mail Carrier

You can also leave a small token of appreciation strait in your mailbox. One year, I left a package of Oreos with a bow and a thank you note.

Thank you for reading. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

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The Reconnect Challenge

Holiday blues got you down? You aren’t the only one. I’m launching the reconnect challenge, a 30-day commitment that will not only help others but fill your heart as well.

the reconnect challenge

No matter what your religion, the holidays seem to inspire love, warmth, and gratitude to people everywhere. But for some people, the holidays are also combined with feelings of loneliness, isolation and even stress. The holiday blues are real and more than ever in this commercialized, digital world, we need the human connection. (Cue Charlie Brown Christmas special)

Feelings of loneliness can creep in during the holidays and there are a lot of reasons for it. Many people live far away from family. For others, the holidays call to mind all the people who have passed away. The holidays can become quite sad when you’ve lost a loved one. Holidays are forever changed without them.

Loneliness sets in when we feel disconnected from people. This is why you hear people say they can feel lonely in a crowd. It’s not always about being around people, it’s that there is little or no intimacy. People can feel lonely because they may feel no one truly cares about them or listens to them.

For some people, it isn’t so much sadness as stress. There are lots of pressures around the holidays. Seeing difficult or toxic family members, gift-giving, lack of money and lack of time are always stressors. For some, it is work bogging them down. Long hours and increased workloads can zap the joy right out of the season.

The Reconnect Challenge

That’s why I’m starting the reconnect challenge and I’d love for you to join me. I’m going to commit to reach out to one person for the next thirty days. I’m excited to see what it does for others as well as for me. What people need most is love, compassion, and kindness and I want to spread buckets of that over the holidays. It’s going to be hard with the hectic schedules of the holidays, but that’s precisely why I think people get disconnected. We get so busy, we lose touch of what really matters – relationships.

the reconnect challenge
Courtesy of Pexels

The Rules

  1. Create a list of thirty people (friends, acquaintances, co-workers, fellow churchgoers, neighbors, or relatives)
  2. You can arrange a physical meetup, write a letter, Facetime, or make a phone call. Refrain from texting, which doesn’t lend itself well to intimacy.
  3. You may reach them via direct message on social media if you have no other way of contacting them. But commit to asking for a phone number to stay in touch in the future.

Other Tips

Your list can include people you’ve lost touch with or perhaps people that you’ve seen several times, but never really taken the opportunity to know. Maybe there is an old co-worker on

I included letter writing as a way to connect because I think it bears special weight today. People don’t write letters anymore. Because instant messaging, texting and social media is so easily and readily available there is something special about knowing that someone took the time to write you, buy a postage stamp and walk it to the mailbox. Plus it is so nice to receive something thoughtful in the mail instead of just a stack of bills.

You can even get creative with your letter. If you can keep your letter short and instead tuck some treats in your letter like a tea bag, a bible verse, seeds, poems, crossword puzzle, stickers or even a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can write you back. Even a simple postcard to let someone know you are thinking of them is a great way to reach out.

friends
Courtesy of Pexels

How to Instantly Connect With Someone

  • Show genuine interest
  • Ask questions
  • Remember names
  • Make them feel important (valued)
  • Listen (and don’t interrupt)
  • Learn from them
  • Show compassion and empathy
  • Refrain from judgement

My advice is to be intentional about this commitment. In other words, make a list of the names of people. Write their phone numbers beside them and mark them off as you go through the month. Make it a priority.

A Ripple Effect

I’m so excited you’ve decided to join me on this journey. I would love to hear how this 30-day reconnect challenge has affected you! Please share this post with others and let’s get a movement started!

Adulting Happy Planner Habit Tracker Insert

It’s FREEBIE time and you deserve a whole sheet of gold stars. Download your FREE Adulting Happy Planner Habit Tracker insert.

adulting happy planner habit tracker
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through a link I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. Your support helps offset the costs incurred with running this blog. Thank you.

Hey planner babes! It’s been a while since I’ve done a planner post. If you are new to my blog, I will tell you I’m a slightly fanatic (trying not to scare you off) fan of The Happy Planner. I’ve been a proud Happy Planner babe since 2015 and you can read all about my journey in my post, How Happy Planner Changed My Life.

Today, I’m sharing a fun FREE printable with you. Recently, someone in the MAMBI Facebook group wished that there was an adulting habit tracker. You know, something where you can give yourself gold stars for adulting. What a great idea.

I mean, I think I deserve something special for cooking instead of picking up fast food and for the fact I shaved my legs in the winter! Also, the kids being alive is a good thing. I mean, I call that a win if no one dies and I keep the cursing down to a dull roar in the car. Am I right?

Adulting Happy Planner Habit Tracker Insert

I’ve made an adulting habit tracker insert for the classic-sized Happy Planner. If I can find some time over the next couple of weeks, I’ll see if I can make other ones for the mini and the big. I’ve made it as a PDF and added some adulting wins I thought were cute. I’ve left 5 blank spaces so you can add your own as well. I know every single entry may not apply to everyone, but I’ve tried my best to write something for everyone.

If you have other ideas for inserts, be sure to let me know. I’d love to make them if I can!

How to Use Your Adulting Habit Tracker

How to use your Adulting Habit Tracker

  1. Download Your File

    Use the button below

  2. Open Your PDF file

    You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or other PDF viewing software to print it. You can download Adobe Acrobat for free here.

  3. Print out on your home computer

  4. Trim paper

    I’ve put light-colored trim lines so it fits perfectly in your planner

  5. Punch & Use

    Use your Happy Planner classic punch so you can add it to your planner.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. By the way, my subscribers get lots of FREE printables (yes, even Happy Planner sized printables) directly to their inbox. So be sure to subscribe so you can get Happy Mail too! Don’t forget to share this post with your friends.

Also, take a look at some of my other Happy Planner posts:

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Stocking Stuffers for Babies & Toddlers

Stumped on what to put in your child’s stocking? I’ve got a great list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers to take some of the guess work out of Christmas shopping!

Stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. I only link to things I truly love.

Hey there, friend. Christmas time is here and you may be struggling on what to put in your child’s stocking. So I’ve put together a quick guide of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. In full disclosure, some of these may not fit in the actual stocking. These small, inexpensive gifts are some of my families favorites! We personally love all these items, which is why I am suggesting them.

As always, use your best judgement when it comes to age appropriateness. Just because something is marked for a certain age, doesn’t always mean it’s right for your little one. Mamas know best!

Under 6 Months

As a mom I know I always appreciated clothes as gifts because they go through them so quickly and clothes are surprisingly expensive. But I absolutely loved some of the items I’m sharing today.

It seems like when your child starts drooling and teething it seems like it happens before are fully able to grasp items well. That’s where some of these things really come in handy. Some of our favorites were drooling bandana bibs. They have an attached teether on them. This keeps it fairly clean since it isn’t falling on the floor all the time and it’s always handy. Same goes for the munch mitt. This was a favorite by both my boys. Its a mitten that is secured to their hand. They can munch away on it without it dropping to the floor all the time! If you haven’t tried Baltic Amber for teething, I highly recommend it. Amber (genuine) has natural healing properties and it is a great soother for sore gums.

Feeding spoons always come in handy and my boys loved wrist and foot rattles. This made floor play super fun and it was handy even when they were in the stroller. Both my boys were disenchanted with tummy time. I received the water pad / mat as a gift and it turned tummy time around for us. It is a non-messy sensory experience and the water is very soothing to babes.

When your baby is first born their retina isn’t fully developed and therefore their vision is also undeveloped. They see high contrast images better. Thats why high contrast books, like this one are a great choice for newborns and young babies.

6 to 12 Months

With a little one, I always felt like I never had enough bibs and socks. Socks always seem to disappear in the wash and between starting solids and the constant dribble of teething, I felt used bibs like they were going out of fashion!

Six to twelve months is a great time to start introducing spatial reasoning. This is an early math skill. Believe it or not, at six months, children begin to be curious about the relationship of objects’ size, distance, direction, and space. You’ll notice your little will try to stack objects which makes stacking rings, bowls, and cups an awesome toy. They’ll also start trying to fit objects inside another which is a great time to start introducing shape sorters. They’ll need your help with it for a while, but it’s a great time to introduce it. Additionally, babies enjoy feeling things with different textures, which is why sensory balls and toys make a great addition to your play area.

Ages 1 to 2 (12 to 24 months)

At about a year old, your child’s world becomes colorful! You’ll find they are now interested in objects that are bright in color. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a great book for learning animals, colors, and the noises they make all in one easy board book. My boys learned all their animal sounds with this book by 18 months.

You’ll also notice your little one loves bath time and this is actually another play time for her. This is where bath toys like squirters and stick-on-the wall pipes become super fun. I also used bath time as an opportunity to teach colors. I used color drops (below) and I would put toys that coordinated with that color (e.g. green water, green toys). Finger paints are great for both a sensory experience and learning colors. If you are worried about a mess, take it outside or you can do what I did – we did it in the bathtub! It’s easy to hose them down afterwards and the mess is contained. Palm crayons are awesome for kids of this age that might get frustrated with traditional crayons.

Also, your little one will be very interested in things that make noise like play phones and musical instruments. This is also a great time to read as your babies language is starting to develop at rapid speed. Board books are great at this age because they can’t destroy them.

Ages 2 to 3 (24-36 months)

Congratulations, you have a busy bee who wants to copy everything you do! This is a great age to start introducing play kitchens, household sets, play food, and other pretend toys are always loved items.

Kids love to play outside in the dirt. My son loved having his own little garden tool set where he could play in our garden bed. Kids of this age also are interested in fine motor activities which is an early writing skill. Fishing toys, lacing toys, dot markers, even wooden puzzles are great for this.

This is also a great time to work on the alphabet and counting. All kids are different, but my oldest was able to count to ten and knew his alphabet by 36 months.

Around this time, I started to introduce a rimmed sippy cup to my toddler to help transition him to a normal cup. Also the Munchkin snack catcher is one of favorites! It’s great for holding puffs, goldfish and other toddler snacks without crazy spills. Stuff can still fall out, but it certainly mitigates messes.

Ages 3 to 4

As you start approaching preschool age, fine motor activities will be a forerunner to writing. We loved using fine motor tools in our sensory bins.

Pattern blocks and counters are great teaching tools and it feels like play time to them. These are great for developing early math skills with patterns, shape, and color recognition. This is also a great time for them to start learning their name and a name puzzle is a great fun way to do that before learning to write it. Magnetic writing boards and mess free painting like Water Wow are fun pre-writing activities.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. Hopefully, it will take some of the headache out of Christmas shopping. Don’t forget to PIN this post for later. Also, be sure to take a look at how to make Christmas special with a Hot Chocolate Bar.

There is a Mom in Your Circle Who Feels Forgotten

Are you struggling to fit in with other moms? Painfully awkward and feeling dismissed? Does that sound familiar? You aren’t alone. I know how that feels. No matter what kind of mom group you’re in there is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten.

mom in your circle who feels forgotten

There is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten. She’s certain she doesn’t fit in. She longs for your friendship. How do I know? I am that mom.

I had been part of an amazing mom’s group after the birth of my oldest son. It brought me out of the postpartum depression that paralyzed me after giving birth. This amazing group is honestly what helped me find my feet as a stay-at-home-mom.

Early in its infancy, I attended nearly every meetup. I hosted events, sometimes four to six times a month to give the fledgling group a full calendar that would attract more people. I threw my heart and soul into it. I even made friends with an amazing woman named Jessica. God, I love her! Her friendship is invaluable to me. I felt like she understood me, right from the beginning and for almost two years, she was truly my best friend. My compatriot in the trenches. I could count on her for anything. But life threw a curveball for both of us. She moved six hours away. I foolishly thought nothing would change our friendship. Even though we stay in touch, it isn’t the same as being down the street. Honestly, when she left I struggled greatly. It was gut-wrenching. I totally failed to handle her leaving like a grown-up.

When I was pregnant with my second son I was grappling with terrible depression. I was off my antidepressants and striving to appear normal to everyone. But I was grossly overwhelmed. I had serious complications with my pregnancy. I was co-organizing the playdate group I loved, but was beginning to be burdened by it. I was drowning in my responsibilities at home. I was a human disaster.

After I had my son, the postpartum depression took hold of me and completely swallowed any joy I had left. The medications weren’t working. I slowly descended into a deeper, darker place. Those were scary times. My emotions were out of control. To top it off, I ended up having a major falling out with one of my fellow moms. The conflict broke me. Not just because of the harsh words exchanged, but because I had truly cared for this lovely woman. When I found out she had been secretly resentful and embittered towards me all that the time I thought we were friends, it just shattered my heart. Like broke it into a million pieces.

I was so broken, so embarrassed by what had been said, I withdrew from her and the group until I could get my head (and my soul) together. I didn’t tell anyone I was exiting. I just simply stopped attending events. I sought out a trusted friend seeking counsel on the matter, but it did not stay confidential and caused an even bigger rift. A few months after I’d left, word got back to me I was being talked about. It shattered me. I decided to stay away for good.

Only two ladies from the group reached out and asked if I was okay. Two. Two women who weren’t even all that involved in the group to begin with were the only ones who realized I was no longer there. The rest? Well, I was forgotten. I had been away for a few months when it dawned on me that no one even seemed to notice I was gone. No one cared. No one missed me. Once I realized that, well…it was crushing. I slowly began to realize that nothing, not my contributions, not my advice, my listening ear, my helpfulness, not all the playdates I hosted had mattered to anyone.

It was almost like in a romantic relationship when you realize that the relationship meant more to you than it did to the other person. It’s humiliating when you realize you were the one doing all the chasing and pursuing. I was embarrassed. I needed them a hell of a lot more than they needed me. The relationship had been largely one-sided and I hadn’t even noticed.

Over the past year, I’ve struggled to watch from the sidelines. They call each other. They go out. They spend mornings at each other’s houses. In the beginning, it was painful to see them on social media at parties and get-togethers. I’m absent. I’m forgotten. It’s taken almost an entire year to be okay with that. But I’m finally there. It’s okay that I only have a couple of true friends.

This isn’t about attention-seeking. At least not for myself. This post is actually quite embarrassing to share publicly. I hate admitting to anyone this is how I secretly feel. Lonely. Overlooked. But I’m sharing it because I don’t think it’s an anomaly. I think there are a lot of moms out there who feel excluded. Moms who feel invisible. There are women out there who long to be a part of a non-judgmental, drama-free mom circle and don’t know how to find it. Moms who are too socially anxious to make friends. Moms who are waiting for someone to invite them and include them. Moms who want more than just casual hellos in school hallways.

I’ve discovered something shocking in adulthood. The landscape of the playground hasn’t really changed since grade school. There is still a closely-knit group of inseparable girlfriends. And there is still an awkward girl watching and desperately wishing she could be a part of it. She wonders why she doesn’t belong.

Girl cliques still exist even in adulthood. You see them huddled together at the park or telling their inside jokes at Chick-fil-A. Being the mom who doesn’t fit in is a lonely road. There are lots of reasons she is the odd mom out. Perhaps she’s out of shape in a group of moms who live and breathe stroller strides. Perhaps she is just socially anxious or a quiet introvert. Maybe she is the single parent or the stepmom in a blended family who doesn’t fit the conventional norm. She’s the mom staring at her smartphone so she won’t look awkwardly alone. She probably drifts from mom group to mom group, always moving on and never feeling that chemistry she craves.

But being a lonely mom causes another feeling to surface. You worry about your kids being lonely – about them not fitting in. How can you possibly teach them to make friends when you yourself struggle with it? Worse still, how do you comfort your kids and tell them that the schoolyard shunning gets better as you grow older? We all know it doesn’t.

I’m grateful for this though. It has taught me a lot. There are lots of moms who quietly moved on from our group. Did anyone notice? Did they feel shunned or neglected? I’m convinced they did. Next time, I’ll be watching for the mom that leaves without a word. There is a mom in your circle who feels forgotten. She yearns for a genuine friendship with you. Save her a seat.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays you can do by yourself or as a family to bring the magic of Christmas to the hearts of others.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays
Courtesy of Unsplash

I try to do acts of kindness throughout the year, but during the holidays I’m especially mindful to do them. As my kids get older, it’s a tradition I love to do with them. I want to instill the habit of doing good in the world.

As a Christian, I believe we are supposed to be a light in a dark world. We should be an ambassador for Christ, showing his love through acts of love, kindness, and mercy. Even if you aren’t a Christian, you can’t deny the affect that kindness has on the world. Whatever the motivation, the holidays seem inspire random acts of kindness.

Choosing What Not To Do

Save Your Judgement

Now before I list some of the things my family does, I want to preface it. Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything. Kindness is as simple as paying someone a compliment or holding the door open for someone. Maybe it is returning someone’s cart or giving someone your place in a long line. Sometimes kindness isn’t what you do, but what you choose NOT to do.

For instance, the next time you see something you disagree with on Facebook, choose to extend mercy by scrolling by instead of hammering someone with your opinion. In fact, one of the places in most desperate need of kindness is social media. Everyone is so quick to judge and condemn others. The world doesn’t need your opinion about everything. Instead, commit to being a peacemaker and withhold your sanctimony. After all, you and me are incredibly flawed. Choose to be kind instead of being “right.”

Forgiveness

Just recently, I’ve seen some horrible acts of unkindness. In one instance, a man at a craft store couldn’t tell where the line started and accidentally cut in front of someone. The woman he cut off, went up the counter and started slamming her fist and screaming at him. The man apologized and explained, but she was unmoved by his apology and continued yelling inches away from his face. The man left broken and shamed.

Another time, I saw an older man come into a parking lot and nearly clipped someone. He parked beside me. The woman he cut off, parked her car directly in front of his, blocking him from getting off and entering the store. She then proceeded to get out of her car and yelled obscenities at him through the window. It was an accident and it’s not like he crashed into her. It was a near miss, but she was determined to draw blood for it.

Things aren’t going to go our way sometimes and when that happens we have a choice. We can respond with kindness or viciousness. Over the years, I’ve learned most people don’t intentionally set off to ruin our day. They’re busy, distracted, or simply make a mistake. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. One way to spread kindness is simply by extending someone forgiveness. Show someone undeserved love. It’s that kind of mercy that inspires others to be kind. It has a ripple effect.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

  1. Leave a basket of treats to thank mail carriers
  2. Let someone cut in front of you in line at a store
  3. Organize a group to sing carols at a nursing home / retirement community
  4. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids so they can get a date night out
  5. Bring a crossing guard or traffic directing police officer coffee or hot chocolate
  6. Donate canned food to a food drive
  7. Give a stranger a gift card
  8. Donate a toy towards a toy drive like Toys for Tots
  9. Put up Christmas lights for an elderly neighbor
  10. Make a Christmas care package for a far away friend or relative
  11. Let someone know you’re thinking about them with a holiday card.
  12. Give to a charity
  13. Donate pet food at a local pet shelter
  14. Donate blood or plasma (it saves lives)
  15. Volunteer at a shelter
  16. Surprise someone with scratch off lottery ticket
  17. Donate blankets or coats to a shelter
  18. Volunteer at a food bank
  19. Return shopping carts in parking lots during the busy shopping season
  20. Tape coins to a vending machine and treat someone to a snack
  21. Help an elderly person with yard work
  22. Donate change for bell ringers
  23. Give a server a generous tip
  24. Walk a neighbor’s dog
  25. Pay off a school lunch debt
  26. Host a book drive for Operation Paperback
  27. Donate used toys to a battered women’s shelter or orphanage
  28. Pet sit for a family who is out of town for the holidays
  29. Say a prayer for someone
  30. Hide a dollar in the toy section of a dollar store
  31. Drop off treats to a fire or police station
  32. Volunteer at church
  33. Donate your wedding gown to a baby who has died
  34. Gift diapers to a family with an infant
  35. Pay for a strangers meal or coffee
  36. Give someone your parking space
  37. Invite someone with no family to spend Christmas with you
  38. Let someone go ahead of you in traffic
  39. Send a thank you note to a soldier
  40. Hand out gloves and mittens to the homeless
  41. Pay for someone behind you at the drive through window
  42. Babysit for a single mom
  43. Take a homebound or elderly person to church
  44. When you disagree with someone on social media, choose to stay kind instead
  45. Bring in your neighbor’s trash bins
  46. Call an old friend
  47. Do something unexpected for your spouse
  48. Bring in goodies for your co-workers
  49. Pick up trash
  50. Give up your seat

Being kind is fun and it makes you feel good. I hope you enjoy doing 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays. PIN this post for later and share on your Facebook wall to get others involved.

Take a look at some of my other Christmas activities in The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

That Mom in the Trench Needs Your Help, Not Your Criticism

Struggling mamas are everywhere and they are doing their best. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism and judgement. Let’s create a movement of kindness where women receive support instead of condemnation.

that mom in the trenches needs you help

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a series of different memes floating around Facebook newsfeeds that have disturbed me greatly. In each of these memes, parents are called “assholes” for various parenting decisions. One meme shamed parents who spank. Another shamed parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids. Another chided parents for not rear facing their child in a car seat until a certain age. Yet another, humiliated parents who choose to tell their kids Santa exists. Every single one of these referred to the parents as “assholes.” Let’s be clear. Just because someone disagrees with your parenting decisions doesn’t make them an “asshole.”

A few days ago I saw a shaming meme that criticized parents who let their kids cry it out. It made them out to be callous, child-abandoning parents for not comforting their child every single time they cry. I don’t know a single parent who does this as a full-time method. You employ it in different situations. And let me be even more frank. Walking away from your child when you are frustrated and exhausted is an important skill. Babies get shaken when parents don’t learn to do that. I will never shame a parent whose safe alternative is to walk away for a while. Some parents have zero help. Some parents have different limits. Be merciful.

Since I’ve been seeing these, I’ve been paying close attention. There is an interesting similarity in all the types of posts I saw like this. Every single one was posted by a woman. Women criticizing women. Women tearing down other women. Women judging other women. It’s rampant. Over the last few months, I’ve slowly left Facebook groups that were once helpful because of the constant arguing and shaming that goes on. Stay-at-home moms criticizing working moms and working moms shaming stay-at-home moms. Vaccines. Special needs. Homeschooling. Allergies. Car seats. Breastfeeding. Discipline. Name the topic and there will be a line of women attacking, vilifying, and humiliating another woman. Please…let’s stop this.

I Was A Perfect Mom Until I Became One

I can recall before I became a mom. I was so arrogant. “My kids would never….!” Fill in the blank. Then I became a mom and my kids did all the things I swore my kids would never do. They had melt downs, talked back, disobeyed, you name it! As I eased into motherhood, I realized parenting isn’t black and white. There are so many variables and moving parts. Once I had my second son, I learned what worked for my first, didn’t work for my second! As a parent, you are constantly having to calibrate your technique and your decisions. We shouldn’t begrudge someone their learning curve. Each of us is doing what we think is best for our children at the time with the knowledge and experience we have at that moment.

Over the last few years I’ve learned I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps more to the point, I’ve learned my choices don’t fit everyone’s life. When did we become so arrogant as to assume there is only one right way to parent? I deeply regret some of the things I’ve said to other moms in the past. Parenthood continues to humble me and parenthood has stretched my compassion of others.

Over the last year, I’ve re-evaluated my conduct when it comes to other moms. My conclusion: I have been a sanctimonious jerk! I took a good hard look at myself and I was disgusted. I had made a habit of shaming what I thought was poor parenting in others. Because, you know…I’m so perfect! It’s been a hard, humbling lesson, but I totally feel like God was correcting me in this area over the last year. I still fail, but I’m making progress.

Life’s Greatest Teacher

I’m going to be completely honest with you, friend. I want you to know, I have a tendency to think too highly of my opinions too. A few years ago, I had some harsh words for my husband’s cousin on a parenting topic. Since then, I have deeply regretted my words. At the time, I felt this parenting method was non-negotiable! I still feel strongly about it. But it is not my place to impose that on someone else. Ultimately everyone is entitled to raise their kids how they want – that includes allowing them to be human and making mistakes with their kids. And I’ve learned that mistakes are often life’s greatest teachers. Far better than any other method of persuasion. Sometimes, people need to learn things on their own…the hard way. Let them.

Remember that old saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar?” It’s true. People don’t take kindly to judgement or you telling them how to live their life. In fact, most people respond to conflict with a fight or flight defense mechanism. They either get defensive, they shut down, or they run away. Most won’t hear what you are trying to say anyway. Social media has made it very easy to argue with people. It has unleashed a whole new level of venom because you don’ have to look anyone in the eye to tell them what an asshole they are.

Most arguments on social media are completely non-constructive because they lack human-connecting qualities like empathy and compassion. Ask yourself what your goal is. If your goal is to truly persuade someone to your opinion it’s unlikely that will happen by calling them an “asshole” or “ignorant.” People are more likely to take the advice of people they respect.

I am extremely opinionated, but as I’ve grown older I’m realizing how cocky it is to “correct” strangers and acquaintances for everything I feel they are doing “wrong” in their life. Part of being mature is realizing not everything requires your opinion. Restraint (self-control) and humility are beautiful qualities to possess. They inspire others, rather than beating them into submission.

Some People Are Just Surviving

Motherhood has taught me lots of things. But one thing I’ve learned is that lots of moms out there are just barely surviving. Some moms are in a pit of depression and are literally taking one minute at a time. There are new moms who don’t have mamas of their own to guide them through this journey and impart wisdom to them. There are single mamas out there who are stretched thinner than pantyhose. Some women have a husband that doesn’t lift a finger to help. Let me say it again, they don’t need your criticism. The don’t need your sanctimony and condemnation. They need your support.

After the birth of my second son, I was in a very dark place. Like, I was contemplating suicide. My postpartum depression was growing worse everyday. During that time I had a falling out with a good friend. Even after knowing I was suicidal, this “friend” chose to shame and berate me for every perceived wrong I had ever done to her. Her condemnation sent me spiraling out of control. Quite frankly, it pushed me over the edge and almost made me despair. (Don’t worry, we’ve since apologized to each other) We never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. Our harsh criticism, our judgement or condemnation may be the very thing that destroys someone. Let’s extend mercy and grace instead. Give people permission to be human.

If You Must Say It, Say It With Love

A few weeks back, a new mom posted in a local Facebook group for moms with what should have been an innocent question: “When do I stop rear facing my child in the car?” The post had more than 200 responses. Women of all ages and experience chimed in with varied answers.

Now I also believe children should stay rear-facing as long as possible. But the nastiness I saw was just appauling. Several older, experienced moms, suggested turning them around once their legs were too long and scrunched up (by about age three). That was the trigger that made women viciously attack!

There was lots of name-calling. One wrote, “Lies! It doesn’t matter how long their legs are. Your advice could get someone’s kid killed!” Other women piled on, “better broken legs that a dead child! Your advice is ignorant and outdated.” Another woman wrote, “it’s people you like you that are killing children with their ignorance. Stop spreading misinformation.” Now, really. Was that necessary? The same thing could have been said nicely. “I thought that too. You may not have seen, but doctors and safety experts are now recommending to keep your kids rear-facing as long as possible, even if their legs appear to be too long. Here is an article that changed my mind.”

If you feel you must speak up about something, fine. But we don’t need to be nasty to someone because they haven’t learned something yet or because they have arrived at a different conclusion. The rudeness is getting hard to stomach.

Final Thoughts

Life is tough enough for all of us. The world has enough cynics and critics. Be someone’s light in a dark world. I guarantee you that encouragement is far more productive than sanctimony. You can persuade others without badgering them. If you have to choose between being “right” and being kind, choose kindness. You’ll never regret being kind. Golden rule, y’all. It still applies today. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism.


Before you go, be sure to find me on Facebook and share this post with a mama who needs this. Also, are you a mom who is feeling burnt out? Try the 30 Day Wellness Challenge.