Saturday, December 21, 2013

a husband's guide to surviving the week before christmas

i don't care how organized you are. you could have your presents wrapped, everything purchased, the decorations up, the meals planned. you could be the master of the holiday season. still, there is something about the christmas season that makes mothers want to curl up in a fetal position at the end of each day, wrap their arms around their head and rock back and forth while muttering words like "santa clause," "elf," "cookies," and "presents" in a crazed repetition. this holiday season is like normal life on crack. it is full of everything that parents normally have to deal with combined with extra sugar, two weeks of vacation from school, and the pressure to create magical memories for our children. the process is exhausting and sometimes marriages get caught in the middle.

here is my survival guide for every husband out there. you men can not only survive the holiday season, you can come out of the month of december looking more rosy than santa clause himself. here is how.

1. don't work too hard. this tip applies only to work at your actual job. if there was ever a month just to sit back and try to coast through, december is that month. don't plan extra meetings or late nights. if possible, drum up a reputation for being a december slacker at the office. go in late, leave early. if they will keep paying you, that's pretty much good enough. if you can be home and helping with the christmas festivities, do it. take vacation days. save your energy and time for when you are at home.

2. practice the statement, "i am one lucky man." i don't care how many times you walk into your wife wearing some form of christmas pajamas and slippers. i don't care how many times she is too exhausted to cook dinner, or bathe...just say, "you are always so pretty. i am one lucky man." that's it. don't elaborate. don't suggest she shower or get dressed. just embrace it.

3. when you get home and your house looks like a small natural disaster has whipped through your kitchen, learn the phrase, "who wants pizza for dinner." use this phrase as many times as is necessary during the month of december.

4. be prepared to spend money eating out...a lot of money. making christmas magic is exhausting. adding the job of cooking dinner to that huge task is sometimes more than is humanly possible. plan on eating out. i may even suggest (which i am not a fan all) charging it if necessary. if the budget for eating out runs out on december 20th, it might be time to charge a couple of meals to pay off in january. i'm sure dave ramsey is shaking his fists at the sky and screaming a loud, "nooooooo..." but it may just save your christmas. trust me, come january, your wife will be back to her normal self. she may even want to cook meals again after the numerous nights of pizza and take out. be the hero. plan on several meals out.

5. take over "the elf on the shelf." some women love the crazy elf. i think they might be certifiable.  i'm pretty much convinced the elf has been used in guantanimo as a torture device. just when prisoners think they are comfortable, *bam*...they have to come up with another clever elf idea. i'm thinking i'll be suffering from some sort of elf post traumatic stress disorder come january. just when i think i may be in for a restful night's sleep, my PTSD will kick in and i'll wake at 4:00 AM in a cold sweat, trying to remember if i moved the elf last night. this will continue until valentine's day when the symptoms will slowly taper off. this is one task that you can take off your wife's hands. search the internet. find some crazy places to put your elf. set your freaking alarm if necessary. be the man. if nothing else, if you put the elf in a lame place and your wife's friends come by, she can say, "oh, my husband does the elf." no more explanation needed. you can be her knight in shining armor.

6. pay for a house cleaner. this rule especially applies if your family in any way shape or form is coming for the holidays. i find it stressful enough just to get out of bed when my in-laws are visiting. i expect a long, exhausting visit. what i don't want to do is spend the week before the visit cleaning my house in preparation for the visit. that just makes for two bad weeks instead of one. do yourself a favor. pay for someone to come clean your house. make it a special christmas surprise for your wife. seriously, watch how happy she is. expect serious gratitude. if you absolutely cannot afford a cleaning service, spend an hour a day doing nothing but deep cleaning your house. an hour a day...every day for the month of december.

7. book your wife a massage for the week after christmas. i'm pretty sure this should be a christmas tradition for every mother. every massage therapist should be booked for december 26-30th. seriously. book it. put a certificate in her stocking. if you want some semblance of your wife back post holiday chaos, a massage is the fastest way to her recovery.

8. take the children away. i don't care if it's for an hour or for a whole day. for some time during the month of december, make the children disappear. while you are away at work, your wife is trying to control the beast that is kids in december. they are like crack addicts. they are pumped with sugar, adrenaline and unrealistic expectations. they are virtually impossible to control and, once school is out, your wife has them all day long. add to that the fact that she is somehow supposed to enjoy doing christmas baking and holiday crafts with them to build traditions and create lasting memories. frankly, i'm surprised i don't see more mothers just wandering aimlessly around their neighborhoods having finally cracked from the pressure of it all. take the children away for a while. heck, buy your wife a new pair of christmas pajamas and some bubble bath. she may not be dressed but maybe she'll have regained a small portion of her former sanity. take the kids to a place where they can run around in circles for hours. avoid giving them sugar. bring them home exhausted. you'll score more points than you can imagine.

9. purchase gifts carefully. gift giving is more important than men realize at christmas time. gift buying, wrapping, and preparing has pretty much consumed your spouse for days and days. she has worked to make meals and cookies and decorations to celebrate the holiday. she may get incredible joy from successfully pulling off the big day. she may gleam at the happiness she sees in her children's eyes. still, she really wants a medal. she basically prepared for and ran a marathon. it took weeks. she's exhausted. a horrible present is like a t-shirt that says, "i just worked my a** off for two months and all i got was this freaking t-shirt." she needs a medal. go ahead and ask your wife for ideas. every time she says, "i'd really like that," she isn't just diving into mindless chatter. she is giving you a gift idea. take notes. type it into your phone. do not forget it. do not purchase your wife a vacuum or dish towels for christmas. get her something she dreams about but hasn't been able to get. you may think a new hand vacuum for the stairs will make her really happy. it won't. it just won't. get her a medal.

10. all points expire at midnight. this is perhaps the greatest nugget i will give this holiday season. it will be helpful not only at christmas but the entire year through. there is indeed a point system for your work as a husband. gifts = points. working around the house = points. being an active parent = points. everything you do accumulates points. what you need to understand is this. all points expire at midnight. i don't care how wonderful you were yesterday. today is a new day. you will need to earn your points on a daily basis. that's just the way it is.

you can do this men. you may dream of being super heroes. here is your chance. i have faith in you, and faith that at the end of this season, we'll all remain standing.

merry christmas.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

mmmmm: nutter butter reindeer cookies

christmas seems to have sprung up fast on us this year, if you are looking for a fun, simple holiday cookie to make with your kids or bring to an event, this is it. the boys and i had fun making them and they turned out super cute. enjoy!

ingredients needed:

nutter butter cookies
tube of black gel icing 
red m&m's
jar of white icing
candy eyes
package of pretzels


open nutter butter cookie (remove top from bottom)

break pretzels to resemble antlers

dip the ends of two pretzels into the white icing and insert two pretzel "antlers" at the top of the nutter butter cookie. place the top of the nutter butter cookie back on top to sandwich the antlers in. 

add two small dots of white icing and add candy eyes. repeat by adding one red m&m "nose".

draw a small "mouth" with the small tube of black gel icing and you are done!

how cute are they?! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

gift guide: the art of giving

every year i struggle to impart some important christmas lessons to my children. we get excited about writing christmas lists each year, about the anticipation of the fun that christmas brings and all the season has to offer. somewhere in the mix of it all, i also want to show my children how amazing it is to give to others. i want them to revel in the joy that comes from watching someone open a gift you gave them. i want them to see the smiles in a neighbors face when you bring them a special treat. i want them to pack up gifts for those in need. i want them to look beyond themselves at christmas time.

if you are trying to teach your children or any children the amazing lesson that it is more blessed to give than to receive, here are some ideas that have worked well for our families.

  • bake for your neighbors. can i hear a shout out from my hood? i have amazing neighbors. they really are some of the greatest people i have ever met. maybe you have a neighborhood like mine. maybe you don't know a person on your street. well, there is no time like the present to make some connections. my kids start asking me when we are going to do our christmas baking on december 1st. each child now has a recipe that is their own that they prepare. one by one, we get our batches of goodies ready and divide them up among some neighbors. the kids get to deliver the packages of goodness to our friends and see the joy their little gifts bring. it is an easy tradition. the kids love it and it brings a bit of christmas cheer to those around you. done.
  • adopt a family for christmas. i have found that there are more places adopting families this year than in any years past. i love it. my children's school adopted families, my neighborhood, the gym where my daughter takes gymnastics, and my church. there were so many opportunities to shop that i had to make a list. i take my kids with me and let them find the perfect gifts for someone in need. if you can't find an organization that is organizing a family christmas adoption, organize one of your own. these precious families will be so blessed and so will you.
  • pay off somone's layaway bill. this one is harder to include the kids in but as they get older, you can explain the way places like walmart work. during this time of year, there are tons of layaway lists in the customer service section of the store. if you explain to the worker that you would like to pay off someone's layaway bill, they will usually let you look at the lists of items on each person's bill. find a list that has essentials for kids, necessities for their family. you'll find lists where people have coats and socks and underwear on layaway. choose a bill and pay it off as a special christmas surprise for someone. have the kids put in a dollar of their own to go towards helping someone else.
  • give young children a small allowance to purchase a gift for their parents. this one took a little work for our kids but now they are experts. we give each kid a small amount of money ($5-$10 is plenty) to purchase a gift for each parent. my oldest is now mowing a neighbor's lawn to make money during the spring and summer months so he is able to use his own money to go shopping. my husband and i switch off and take the kids on mini-shopping trips. at first the kids wanted to buy things that they wanted. "mommy will love a new car to play with." it takes some training but eventually they will look for a new pair of fuzzy socks or a pair of earrings instead of a toy they want. it is an amazing lesson to learn to think of what others would like instead of what you would like when purchasing gifts. there are many grown ups who still need to learn this. my future daughter-in-laws will thank me. when christmas morning comes, i am always amazed at how excited the kids are to give their gifts and how thrilled they are to see them opened. this one small act is teaching them how much joy comes from giving.
  • look into great philanthropic organizations. last year we included information on some of our favorites. click here for websites and information on "samaritan's purse," "compassion international," "heifer international," and "world help organization." they are all amazing ways to help those whose need is beyond what we can comprehend this christmas. let your children research some of the countries and see some of what they are experiencing or show pictures you yourself find. it is wonderful how much compassion can come from children when they understand a need.
  • have your children design a christmas card for each member of your family. my kids spend an afternoon each december writing out christmas cards for each of their siblings. they tell each other they love each other. they draw pictures. they will usually tape some sort of candy inside to give to their sibling. part of our fun on christmas day is reading all our christmas love notes from the kids. they are precious and they remind the kids how special their siblings are during the christmas season and all year through.
  • purchase gifts that give back for you. maybe some of the ideas listed are not going to work for you this year. we understand that giving back in some of the ways listed above may not be for everyone or even something you are able to do. there are many wonderful organizations that create awesome merchandise and who will give all or a portion of their profits to helping those in need every time you make a purchase. maybe giving back this year will include some unique gifts that will help those in need as well. here are some of our favorite gifts that will give back for you.
the giving keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. when the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send in the story of their key being paid forward. i LOVE the necklaces and the thought behind them and plan on getting them for quite a few people on my gift list this year

through a unique model, krochet kids empowers the women of northern uganda and peru with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. the result is long lasting and sustainable change. the organization provides jobs so that women can meet the present needs of their families. however, they go beyond that and educate these women so that they develop beyond the need for outside aid. they also provide mentorship to help each lady plan a unique and sustainable career path for the future. now, this is an organization i can get behind. 

what do you do to teach your children to think of others at christmas time? there are so many amazing ideas out there. i'm thankful for an army of people who help me and my children to think outside the box and, more importantly, to think of others.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

diy: christmas hand print pot holders

this christmas, i wanted to come up with a cute handmade gift for the boys to give to family. these hand print pot holders were pretty east to make, inexpensive and turned out even more adorable than i expected. take the time to try this out before christmas. i know these will be a huge hit with the grandparents for sure and i can't wait to see their faces when they open them. 

•pot holders --i purchased these at my local dollar store--they were 2 for $1.
•fabric paint - you can find these in any craft store. the colors i used were:      green, yellow, red, blue, tan and black.
•paint brushes
•a little patience :-)

for each design, i simply painted the boys entire hand one solid color and then carefully placed it onto the pot holder. be sure to use pressure to ensure a solid print. the only design where the entire hand was not painted one solid color was the santa pot holder. for that design, i painted their hand prints 3 colors to represent the hat, face and beard of santa. here is an example of how their santa hands looked before making the hand print onto the pot holder:

after making the hand prints, allow them to dry fully before painting on the details.

the details can be the hardest part. some of the designs i had in mind ended up being a little labor intensive. in my opinion, the easiest designs are the tree and santa. the most labor intensive was the snowmen...but how cute did they turn out?! 

feel free to use my designs or come up with your own. this project was so much fun and the boys are so excited to give their special hand print pot holders to their family. which one is *your* favorite?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

holiday gift guide: stocking stuffers and gifts for moms

moms can sometimes feel like the hardest people to shop for. here are a few of our favorite things this season to inspire you and help to make this the happiest of holidays for you and the mama in your life. enjoy! 

book phone charger

i love etsy. it's an amazing online marketplace filled with wonderful biggest problem is not buying something everything i start to browse. i stumbled across rich neeley's store quite some time ago and fell in love. rich creates these wonderful book phone chargers that are adapted to your model of phone---he even makes versions to accommodate your ipad. there are countless titles available--there is sure to be one that is the perfect fit for you. just imagine how cute this looks on your nightstand?! stylish + functional = perfection.

clarisonic 'mia'

the clarisonic mia has changed my skin for the better. it's easy to use, charge and is waterproof so i can keep it in the shower to use. my skin has never felt cleaner and been more clear.....what mom doesn't want that?

hayden reis -- beach bag
hayden reis and the lovely ladies from palm beach lately have teamed up to bring you an exclusive limited addition sail cloth tote.  this bag is made of 100% dacron sail cloth, lined with 5 interior pockets, nautical sailing rope and mint stripe with leather club applique design. it is even available with a monogram *swoon*. genelle and i are huge fans of hayden reis--their products are functional and durable yet so fashionable. i own a couple but have had my eye on this one to add to my collection. this bag would make any mama on your christmas list happy. it is a must-have in my opinion!

leather leaf leather bracelet 

I have quite a few bracelets from leather leaf. i found them on etsy and love that they will custom engrave sayings, names or anything on a bracelet of your choice (many colors are available). they now have the ability to have custom handwriting onto a bracelet. hand write a short message or signature and have it laser engraved into a leather braided bracelet....or use the handwriting of a loved one that has passed or your child's writing. makes a great personalized gift, or a one-of-a-kind treat to yourself!

i love getting jewelry as gifts. this piece from stella and dot has become a staple for me and I wear it all the time. i wear gold, but if you like, it also is available in silver. i love to throw on jeans and tee's and when i wear this necklace it makes me look much more stylish and put together than I deserve..... and what mom doesn't love that?! 

up by jawbone

up by jawbone is such a fun way to track steps, miles and workouts. i love that it syncs easily to its app by plugging it into my iphone and it holds a charge for days. up by jawbone even has a nifty alarm feature that gradually wakes me up (at a set time) by gently vibrating on my wrist so i (and everyone else in the house) are not awaken by a loud buzzer or music. i also love that it comes in so many colors--you are sure to find one that is the perfect color for someone special on your shopping list.

kindle paperwhite

a tablet is a must-have for the book lover in your life. i have used many, but the new kindle paperwhite is the best to date. it is compact, easy to use and holds more books than i could read in a year. heavenly. 

hydro flask insulated stainless steel coffee/tea/water bottle
my dear friend, darcy came to visit me a couple years ago in san diego and accidentally left her hydro flask in my car. she told me that i could keep it and thus started my love affair with the hydro flask. if i fill it with tea or coffee, it will stay warm all day and if i fill it with something cold and icy, it stays colds *with ice cubes still in it* hours later. every member of my family has one and i couldn't say enough about the product. the perfect stocking stuffer for moms and anyone else.

jo malone
jo malone's fragrances are so wonderfully refreshing and light. the sent does not overpower and is simply divine. the best part is that her fragrances are made to be layered so pick up the gift set and let your loved one custom make her own fragrance depending on the day and her mood. 

charm necklace
most moms i know *love* to have some sort of symbol of their kids and loved ones to display. i love the way that stella and dot allows you to customize with so many variations of styles and symbols to come up with a necklace that is as unique as you. what a thoughtful gift to find under the tree.

hanky panky underwear
moms are great at buying for everyone in their life except themselves. buying new, sexy underwear doesn't always rate high on the list. do your wife (and you) a favor and pick up this cute gift box of hanky panky underwear to stuff the stocking. hanky panky's are so comfortable, yet sexy and any woman would be thrilled with new underwear. 

have you ever wished you could walk in oprah's shoes? well, now you can. oprah is a huge fan of tieks and they are taking over the world of the ballet flat. said to feel like "walking on air" the tieks shoes are on my christmas list. i love that the already come wrapped in a cute box topped with a flower. a successful gift and no wrapping to do or pay extra for? what are you waiting for?

mac lipgloss
i don't wear a lot of make-up, but one thing i love to have in my bag to throw on and instantly feel a little better is lip gloss. this gift set makes a wonderful stocking stuffer and is something fun that i wouldn't buy for myself. 

simple silhouette pendant necklace
i found this lovely shop on etsy a while back and *love* their silhouette necklaces. the silhouettes are generic and not an exact match of your children, but I love mine that symbolize my little men and get so many complements on it whenever i wear it. 

a-z leather pouch
i am in love with this super cute initial tote and think it is the perfect gift for the gal in your life. it could be used as a clutch or even as a make-up bag....either way it is all sorts of adorable and i need it, in "h" of course ;-)

happy shopping! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

holiday gift-guide: must have stocking stuffers for kids

when it comes time for santa to stuff the stockings it can be hard to think of enough things to fill it with. today we are sharing with you our favorite must-have stocking stuffers of the year. follow our list and you will be finished with stuffing in no time! 

must have stocking stuffers for kids:

shoe tying? eventually every parent is faced with the task of teaching their child to tie their shoes. i have been working on helping my first born learn and have had no luck. loopeez works by accelerating the learning process and eliminating frustration. teaching kids to tie their shoes using the loopeez shoe tying system is simple, fun and most of all requires little time to master. the *perfect* stocking stuffer--useful and much needed. 

dvd's make for a great stocking stuffer for kids of all ages. these two awesome ones are our favorites for this season that your littles are sure to love. 

crayola color bath dropz
Kids love these bath dropz. It's fun to color the water a different color daily. Coming in the primary colors red, yellow and blue, I love that my kids can then learn how to mix colors to create new ones like green, orange or purple.

disney figurine sets:

we have gone through countless of bath toys over the years. most of those end up slimy and gross after having water become trapped in them. a couple years ago i switched to these solid disney figurines. the boys love setting them up on the edge of the tub and pretending to be the characters as well as letting them sink to the bottom of the tub and "diving" for their favorite character of the moment, hidden below the bubble bath. the figurines are solid and won't take on water. they are also easy to clean by sticking them in the sink with a mixture of water and bleach. have fun collecting ones from your child's favorite movies or shows. 

ghost island --- choose your own adventure

i remember being obsessed with the chose your own adventure series when i was in jr high. i loved picking what choice the character would make in a given situation and then seeing what the outcome would be. i am thrilled to hear that they now make them in early readers! while my boys are too little to read these alone, they LOVE mommy reading to them and finding out what the end story will be based on their decisions.

i was a huge fan of the handheld water games when i was a kid, so i was so excited to find out they are still being made! i can't wait to see if my kiddos love them as much as i did.

chinese jumprope
another classic game of my childhood that i can't wait for my own children to experience. do you remember playing chinese jump rope too?

slingshot flying monkey
this silly monkey is shot through the air like a slingshot. i know it will be a big hit!

lip smackers

fun flavored chap stick is fun for kids of all ages and genders. 

power kids toothbrush

my kids get so excited for a new toothbrush. santa is sure to bring them a new one this year in one of their favorite animated friends. an easy stocking stuffer and, again, something that they need, but still get excited about too.

i am in love with melissa and doug water wow books. the pages are activated with simply water and you use the small re-fillable brush with water to "color" the pages. once dry, the color disappears and they can color over and over again. the water wow books are the perfect size for taking in the car and will make for fun, effortless learning. 

we hope you enjoyed our stocking stuffer must-haves. what will santa be stuffing your kiddos stockings with this year?