Category Archives: kids & family

And the last box has been opened…

On December 1st, we embarked on a new activity at our house, the Advent Calendar.

It’s been a fun 3+ weeks with lots of crafting and doing and going and seeing. Overall, the calendar/wreath has been well received. The kids really looked forward to opening the box each day. Some days they were a bit disappointed by the the contents of the box and other days they were thrilled. I do have it on good authority, though, that this should become a regular tradition!

By far, the activity they enjoyed the most was yesterday’s “scavenger hunt“. On Tuesday evening, after the children were snug in their beds, I removed the calendar/wreath from it’s place of honor and hid it. In it’s place was a clue that led to another clue and so on. They found clues in stockings, in the oven, in the freezer, on a bed, etc, etc until it led them to my car where the calendar/wreath was safe and sound in the back seat.

When the box was opened it contained one last clue that let them to early Christmas presents! The calendar/wreath really kept me on my toes and I’m savoring the memories it has made. I’m already thinking about next year’s activities and hunt!

One Christmas tradition, however, has been pushed aside and given “well, maybe next year” status – the sending of the yearly Christmas cards. Last year, I kept putting it off until I decided to skip it all together. This year, the cost of cards and postage was prohibitive yet I didn’t want to go another year without sending a Christmas greeting to friends and family.

Being the “environmentally friendly” family that we strive to be, we* decided to save paper and do something a bit different this year. You can view our virtual Christmas card on Whrrl! We hope you enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

*And by “we”, I mean, “I”!

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For several years now I’ve wanted to do an Advent Calendar with my kids. The problem was, I never remembered until maybe the last day of November or a couple of days into December. Sure, I could have started it a little later but I tended to just shrug my shoulders and plan to do it the next year.

Last year, I saw a neat Advent Calendar/Wreath at Target that I really liked. Unfortunately the only one that was left at my Target was missing a piece. And frankly, I wasn’t interested in driving all over Nashville to various Targets to see if they had one that was whole. So once again, I shelved the idea. Then much to my delight, while we were with my parents for Christmas, I came across one at a Target in their city AND it had all it’s parts AND it was on clearance! So I snatched it up, brought it home and put it away with the Christmas decorations.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I spent a good part of the day taking down and putting away my Autumn and Thanksgiving items and pulling out and setting up my Christmas items. And there was the Calendar/Wreath, taunting me. I was so unprepared. It was the day before December. We had just returned on Sunday from being out of town for 10 days. I had so much to do. But I just couldn’t put off for another year, not when I had the calendar right there in front of me.

Which is why I was up until midnight last night coming up with our advent activities and setting up the calendar/wreath. And because I couldn’t come up with 24 specific things to do and because I know how, um, well, lazy, I can be, I fudged it a bit and there are three candy days. That means when they open that day, there will be two pieces of candy waiting for them instead of an activity. There are also two present days. They will be told to go look in a certain place to see what’s there.

{And as I wrote this, GMan was beside himself with anticipation about the first box. I told them this morning we would open it when JBelle got home from school.}

Here’s what we are doing for the next 24 days:

  1. Go outside and look at the moon & stars before bedtime. Remember the star that the wise men followed. (I thought it was going to be clear tonight! It wasn’t. We stepped outside and looked at the blurry moon though and we read the book The Greatest Gift about an angel that becomes the star that points the way to Jesus and I tried to put “glow in the dark stars” up in GMan’s room, but they kept falling off the ceiling. Tomorrow should be easier…I hope!)
  2. Shop for Y.E.S. gift
  3. Decorate bedroom doors
  4. {candy}
  5. Watch a Christmas movie
  6. Bake cookies with Mommy
  7. What’s in the red basket above the TV? (it’ll be Christmas socks)
  8. Make paper snowflakes
  9. {candy}
  10. Take Christmas goodies to a shut-in member from our church
  11. Make a Christmas card for friend
  12. Build a fort from blankets & pillows. Read a Christmas book in the fort.
  13. Have hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows or whipped cream.
  14. Donate food to Second Harvest Food Bank
  15. {candy}
  16. Make shrinky-dink ornaments or magnets
  17. Go see TN State Christmas Tree & Nashville Christmas Tree
  18. Eat dessert first (brownies with peppermint ice cream)
  19. What’s in the cookie jar? (it won’t be cookies! it will be an, as of yet undetermined, treat)
  20. Drive around and look at Christmas lights in our pajamas
  21. Count all the Santas in the house
  22. Make paper toys (
  23. Go on a Christmas scavenger hunt (I may regret this! Remember, I already admitted to being lazy!)
  24. Read Christmas story from the Bible and open Christmas Eve present from Mommy & Daddy (it’s always pjs)

Some of these I came up with on my own, several of them I “borrowed” from Kristen of We are THAT Family. A few others I found on the web (this is a neat list).

{JBelle arrived home as I was working on this post and we opened the first box. Unfortunately, GMan was quite disappointed. Of course, he’s five and doesn’t quite get the whole concept. JBelle, on the other hand, was impressed and is looking forward to our first activity. I think once we get to Day 4, GMan will be on board!}

Do you do an Advent Calendar? What is in yours?

Another excellent idea is The Twelve Days of Christmas. My friend, Sarah, is doing this for one of her blog readers (her sweet husband does this for her every year.) I’m going to do this, too…next year. Sorry to make you wait but after putting that Advent Calendar together, I’m plumb out of ideas.


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The Quintessential Leaf Pile

Nothing more fun than a pile of leaves!







Filed under I take pictures, kids & family

An album review with a life lesson attached

In my less than stellar moments as a parent, I wallow in being unappreciated. Don’t my children know what I do for them? Don’t they realize that without me these things wouldn’t get done? Why must I tell them to pick up their shoes everyday and why must I answer the same questions over and over again?

I have to be careful and not let selfishness get the best of me. Living in the messy, exhausting day to day of life often robs me of perspective. They don’t need to see how they are blessed by me, I need to see how I am blessed by them. They are awesome. They take my breath away. They are precious and perfect and they bring such joy and happiness to my life.

Remembering that is what brings me to tears every time I hear the song “Ghandi/Buddha” on Kenny Loggins‘s new album, All Join In. While I disagree with the theology behind the song (past life karma), the sentiment of our children being so wonderful and getting to have them in our lives is a powerful message.

KENNY_COVER_FINALA few of weeks ago, One2One Network provided me with a pre-release copy of Loggins’s new album in exchange for giving them feedback. When I took their survey, they asked if I’d like to be able to offer downloads of songs to my readers. And guess what? I get to offer you downloads for 4 songs from the All Join In album! In addition to “Ghandi/Buddha”, you can get “All Together Now”, “There Is A Mountain” and “Your Lollipop”.

All Join In is a new children’s album from Kenny Loggins. But you know what? You’ll like it as much, if not more, than your kids!

The album includes fresh, creative takes of classics: The Beatles’ “All Together Now” and “Two of Us” (the latter being his first studio recording in decades with Jim Messina), Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, the Dell Vikings’ 1950’s classic “Come Go With Me, “Traffic’s “You Can All Join In” (appropriately joined by the song’s writer and former Traffic member, Dave Mason) and Donovan’s 1960’s classic “There Is a Mountain.”

I keep this CD in my car and play it often. GMan especially enjoys it and has specifically requested that I play it.

So how do you get the songs? It’s fairly simple. Follow this link. Listen to the songs, answer a short survey and an e-mail will be sent to you with a link for the downloads. I hope you enjoy the songs!

Follow Kenny on Twitter | Become a fan on Facebook

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Over the summer, the kids got the idea to put their muddy handprints on the garage door. It was cute and harmless. But then one of them (and I’m sure you can guess which one) just couldn’t get enough of leaving muddy handprints:
handprint collage

I’m not sure whether to be amused…or disturbed!

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School Daze

Yes, I’ve been remiss in posting anything at all about my children going back to school even though it is THE most wonderful time of the year! And truly it is because after a summer of ALL four us together under one roof 24/7, things were getting a teensy bit dysfunctional around here.

JBelle has entered 4th grade. I’m still getting used to the idea of having a fourth grader especially since in our school system, this is the last year of elementary school. So, she’s like a Senior of elementary school. Bizarre. My head, it spins. And she has the credentials to back this up as well. She is on the “safety patrol” for morning drop off and she’ll be participating with the school’s choir. I think this is going to be a really good year for her. I’m excited to see what she’ll learn and how she’ll grow!

GMan is in Pre-K this year. We added one more day to his preschool schedule; he’s a happy student, I’m a very happy mama! He’s all about the social aspect of school. For him, there’s nothing better than hanging out with his friends on the playground and if he happens to come home with a better understanding of his ABCs and 123s, that’s just gravy! He turns five (5!) in November and I’m really liking this extra year before Kindergarten. Time to be a kid and time to learn a few basics before the Big K! (Oh, sorry…apologies to KMart.)

Each year we take our traditional “front porch” pictures on the first day of school. Here’s a little collage I put together of my faves.

school collage

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Summer Magic

Each season contains it’s own special magic. The sights, sounds and smells that are unique and particular to the current season all wrap together in a kind of aura that hovers over space and time. Unfortunately, experiencing that magic is often impossible in the moment. You recognize it once the moment is gone, often even years later.

As a mother, I find myself wanting to create that magic for my children. I long for them to have lovely summer memories that they look back on with fondness. Often, I try too hard to accomplish that. I engineer events and schedule outings in hopes that they will make some lasting impression on my children’s brains that they reminisce about in years to come.

Silly me.

What their brains decide to hold on to and remember will have little, if nothing, to do with my orchestrations. I’m not going to give up on it though because even if they don’t remember, I will.


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Gimme gimme gimme – the MOTHER of All Giveaways

glamour MaliaWhen I was kid and Mother’s Day would come around, I remember wanting to get my Mom something. And I remember asking my Mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day and her birthday (which is like a week later) and she would say the quintessential Mom thing, “I don’t want you to get me anything. Just being with you is gift enough.” I always thought she was just letting me off the hook since she knew that I only had $0.18, a rock and some lint in my wallet.

But now I’m the mom and I’ve fielded this question from my own kids and my answer is the same. Not because I know they only have $0.18, a rock and some lint in their wallets but because there’s nothing they could give me that’s better that the gift of themselves.

Mothers Day 2009However…if someone else wanted to give me some fabulous gift, say a well-known website for moms like, oh, I don’t know…5 Minutes for Mom (you know how much I ❤ them right?) then I would be more than willing to accept a token of their appreciation, or rather their sponsor’s appreciation!

So to all you moms out there who don’t want their kids to fork over cash for a gift but who would like a new laptop or a new Coach purse or a Blu-Ray player or an Elliot Lucca Satchel or another laptop, then head on over to the 5 Minutes for Mom Mother’s Day Giveaway and start entering to win these and other fabulous prizes while there’s still time!!

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Filed under by Malia, kids & family, life as a domestic goddess, parenting

A Menu of Ailments

glamour MaliaBoth of our children have wonderful, active imaginations. Pretend play has been a staple in their early childhood years. With JBelle it was acting out scenes from her favorite movies, which was funny because….

JBelle to me: “Mommy, you be Belle and I’ll be Gaston” or “Mommy, you be Analise and I’ll be Preminger”

…she always wanted to be the bad guy!

The GMan, on the other hand, is all about occupations. He likes to pretend he is working in an industry. His current obsession is all things emergency services related. We spend many days being fire chiefs, police officers and occasionally ambulance drivers. His other favorite is playing “restaurant”. He’s the server and we’re the guests. We get to order from an often unpredictable menu of options. It’s not uncommon to order something from his restaurant only for him to come back and sadly inform us that they are “out” of said item.

Then the other day, he happened upon a clipboard that I wasn’t using. He put a piece of paper in it, got a crayon and set up his own little desk in the kitchen. (The recycling bin is his desk and a cooler that is sitting beside it is his chair.) We even made a “name plate” for him and taped it to the desk.

So, I’m sitting at my desk, working on the computer when he comes up to me with his clipboard and asks me what I have on his “menu”. Since I’m used to the restaurant game, I start ordering food. “No, not food Mommy! What do you have? Aches, pains, chills, headache, hot flashes?”

Hot flashes? Did he really just say hot flashes?

Apparently we’re now playing doctor! He gave me his “card” with his phone number on it and a phone (wooden block) to call him at the hospital whenever I needed him. So every few minutes I would pick up my phone (wooden block) and dial his office to complain of an ailment. Fortunately, this doctor makes house calls and is actually a miracle worker because each of my diseases and sufferings were immediately cured by either an imaginary pill or what may possibly have been a voodoo hex. But since I still have only one head, none of my toes have fallen off and my eyes aren’t orange, I pretty sure that was all just make believe!

Though I’m still puzzled over the hot flashes.


Filed under by Malia, kids & family, parenting, The GMan

Little Miss Smartypants

blissfulchicks_crop_christmasI realized the other day that there seemed to be a lack of Christmas anticipation coming from my children.

I remember, as a kid, being so excited about Christmas. I could hardly stand it! It occurred to me that one reason the anticipation was so palatable was because of the presents under the tree. What was lurking inside those wrapped boxes? How many were for me? Did the presents from Uncle Bud and Aunt Madeline come yet? The days seemed to crawl by until we could finally dig into the pile and satisfy our curiosity.

My  kids have certainly been excited but there was something missing – no presents under the tree. Now the reason for that is too long and boring to expound upon here. Suffice it to say, I decided to wrap some presents to put under our tree. Some stuff for family members and a couple presents for the kids.

Each year, the children get to open a present on Christmas Eve and that present is new pajamas for them to wear that night. That’s what I decided to wrap up. I did it one night after they were bed and the next morning, GMan was the first to notice the packages under the tree. He was so excited! Exactly the reaction I was hoping for! He got down on the floor and looked and looked and kept asking about them.

Then JBelle came into the room. He excitedly pointed them out to her, waiting for her reaction. She took one look and then turned to me and glibly said, “Are those our Christmas Eve gifts?”

So much for creating anticipation!


Filed under by Malia, kids & family, parenting