Posts by christy:

Fun Christmas Family Traditions

I love Christmastime…absolutely love it!  And I love sharing my fun Christmas traditions for families, because Christmas is a particularly wonderful season to celebrate and spend time with my little ones. 20 fun Christmas traditions for families

Jennifer and I are excited to share 20 super fun, super cute Christmas  traditions from each of our families.  And we would love if you comment below and share some of your favorite family Christmas traditions.

Christy’s 10 Favorite Christmas Traditions

1. New Christmas Jammies and Holiday Movie

Every year, I make it a special point to get the kids new Christmas jammies – and let them open them on December 1st.  A way to kick off the holiday season…and enjoy them all month long.  Our family also gets one new Christmas movie each year…and we make it a point to have a family movie night, complete with snacks and snuggles.

2. Decorating as a Family

I love, love, love decorating for Christmas, and it typically take splice the day after Thanksgiving.  I think because for a lot of my decorations and ornaments, it’s like opening a time capsule.  We make decorating the tree a family affair.  We talk about the ornaments, stories about where they came from, and family heirlooms.  Each kid gets to hang their “own” ornaments from year’s past.  They get such a kick out of the baby ones!

I look forward to this each year, especially now that my kiddos are a little bit older and really understand the history and stories we tell.  My favorite ornament of all time is still a little pink angel my grandma gave me when I was a little girl.  It’s priceless.

3. Hot Cocoa by the Fire

Yes, it has been unseasonably hot this year. Yes, I know we live in sunny California.  But, we still love this family tradition.  We build a fire in our fireplace (even though we’re already roasting), let the kids put on their Christmas jammies, we make homemade hot cocoa with marshmallows, and we turn on Christmas songs (all while pretending it’s “snowing” outside).

Then, we sit by the fire as a family, drinking our hot chocolate, humming along to the songs, and talking about Christmas.  It’s so fun, and we try to do this at least a few times during the month of December.

4. Letters to Santa

We do the traditional letters to Santa…but with a little twist.  In addition to asking for that one special gift, first I ask each child to list three things they have done to serve others this past year (I try to emphasize “the reason for the season” every chance I get!).  As soon as they are old enough to write, each child writes their own letter.  They also draw a picture for Santa.  It’s so cute to see what they come up with!

5. Adopt-a-Family

Every year, in some capacity, we either participate in an Adopt-a-Family or child’s angel ornament, as a family.  And the kids get involved!  We shop, read about their wish lists, and pick things out.  We talk about the importance of giving, how giving is more important that receiving, and how wonderful we hope this family will feel when opening their new gifts.  It’s a great way for the kids to participate in giving, and thinking about more than what they want on their list.

6. Baking Christmas Cookies for our Neighbors

We bake up a storm for our neighbors!  The kids and I shop for the ingredients together, mix/stir/bake together (or at least as long as I have their attention), and then have a frosting and decorating party.  And, shhhhhh…sometimes to cut down on the hours of baking, I cheat and get pre-made sugar cookie cutouts, and we go straight to the frosting and decorating (the best part!).

We wrap up the cookies, put them in cute Christmas tupperware, top them with a bow, and deliver them (with Christmas cards!) to our neighbors.  So fun!

7. Homemade Cards and Art as Gifts

My 7-year-old is really into arts and crafts.  So each year she makes Christmas gifts for friends and families.  I help her arrange her markers, glitter glue, stickers, paint, sparkle confetti, etc., and she goes to town.  Cards, cut-outs, 3-D art…you name it, she’ll try it.

It’s such a sweet sight to see, and I know how much her homemade cards and creations mean to her recipients.  It’s a great way to emphasize giving from the heart.  Love it.

8. Sibling Love – Picking Out Gifts

Speaking of gifts, I let each of my kids pick out a gift for the other one.  On their own.  I give them a budget – most of the time it’s $5 or $10 – and I take them shopping separately, so they can each pick out what they think their sibling would love the most.  They love this.  I reserve judgment…as long as they are within their “budget,” they can pick what they want.  We’ve gotten some pretty cute/funny/bizarre gifts over the years, but here’s the thing.  They each love getting to pick something on their own.  And the receiving kid is absolutely delighted.  Oh, and I let them “wrap” it on their own.

9. Elf on the Shelf

If you read my Elf on the Shelf blog last week, you know that I am pro-elf – lol!  We love our Elf on the Shelf traditions, and look forward to our family elf, Jingles, returning each year!  The kids are in love with this little elf, and the Christmas season would not be the same in our house without Jingles!

10. Homemade Cookies for Santa, Carrots for Reindeer

Yep, Santa gets homemade cookies on a platter and fresh milk, his reindeer get carrots (of course!) and a water dish, and we set out a thank you note for him. When the kiddos wake up, only cookie crumbs, milk drops and half eaten carrots are left, and the thank you note is gone – magic!

Jen’s 10 Favorite Christmas Traditions

1. Advent Calendar

Growing up, we always had an advent calendar counting down the days, and I loved being able to see the countdown.  Our family has one of these felt Advent Calendars, where my girls get to pick out the little figure from the date and move it to the scene, until it is finally complete on 12/24!

2. Gingerbread Houses

My in-laws started this tradition with my girls, and they absolutely adore it.  Early December they will come to visit for a Gingerbread House day.  I love seeing my pictures of them with their houses year after year.

3. Special Ornament

Each year my girls get to pick one new special ornament and I keep a list by year.  Then when they move out and get their own tree one day, I plan to give them their box of ornaments throughout the years.  My mom did this for me, and I still treasure my ornaments to this day.

4. The Nutcracker

This is a new tradition for us – we all went to see The Nutcracker this past weekend and it was such a special experience. I vowed to take my girls every year!

5. Macy’s Believe Santa Mail

Every year I take my girlies to mail their letters to Santa at a Macy’s Santa Mail as part of their Believe campaign, for which Macy’s donate’s $1 for every letter to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, up to $1,000,000.

6. Display All Our Christmas Cards

I have Scotch mounting squares and mount all of our holiday photo cards from friends and family in our great room on the wall to enjoy the whole month through.

7. Display Santa Photos from Each Year

I frame a photo of my girls walking out together on Christmas morning and their annual photo with Santa in inexpensive white frames and display them during the month of December.

8. Family Wish Ornaments

Years ago, I bought these Wishing Ornaments, where there is one for each member of the family and all of us write a wish to put in the ornament for the upcoming year.  Each year when we decorate the tree it’s so cute to read last year’s wish (and see if it came true!) Looks like Red Envelope doesn’t sell them anymore, but you could make your own using those cute clear ornaments you can open.  Might be fun to have each family member decorate their own.

9. Collect an Ornament on Trips

For each place we visit on vacation, we pick out an ornament as a souvenir if available, and it is so fun to remember our fun travels when we decorate the tree.

10. Ice Skating on Christmas Eve

In SoCal, we don’t have a lot of “wintery” opportunities, but one thing we do have are pop up holiday ice skating rinks.  Each year when we visit my in-laws in San Diego, we go to the Hotel Del Coronado and go Skating by the Sea.  The most amazing setting to be ice skating on the beach!

When Good Kids Bring Home Bad Words

When Good Kids Bring Home Bad Words

Don’t you love it when your kiddo comes home and repeats an oh-so lovely new “phrase” they learned at school or on the playground? I like to call it playground smack talk.  And today I’m talking about how to handle it when good kids bring home bad words…and am asking you to share how you do, too!

My two cents…

I know there’s only so much we can do to protect our kids, albeit from owies, hurt feelings, dangerous or embarrassing situations…and being exposed to kid “smack talk.” Because part of our job as a mom is to let our little ones experience the world.  Experience their own emotions and feelings, and experience expressing them.

And with that, comes the constant testing, pushing boundaries, and pushing buttons.

One of my buttons?  Potty talk.  Recent example from my 4-yeard-old – “You’re a big fat poopy head!”

Lovely, right? (Yes, I’m cringing right now).

And I know that they are probably repeating something that they heard and are simply testing it out.  You want to know how I know this?  Because Disney Junior does not use the phrase “big fat poopy head.”  And neither do my husband and I (scout’s honor).

It also goes the other way…”Mommy, so-and-so called me a silly old chicken on the playground.  What does that mean?” (lip quivering). This makes my heart hurt.

Ugh. I know that with my kiddos, they can be both the instigators AND the recipients of smack talk, depending on the day and the situation.

So how can we help curb this kind of talk and equip our kids with how to best handle it if it happens to them?

Five ideas to combat playground smack talk…

1. Teach them to report it to an adult
Notice how I said “report” and not “tattle” – lol.  I just wrote a blog on teaching kids the difference between the two!  If they’re in a school, playground or park situation, then I tell my kids to first ask the child “who’s not talking nice” to stop – and try to resolve it themselves.  If they continue, I instruct my kids to tell a teacher, parent or adult on-duty.  Sometimes our kiddos need that extra help.  And I believe it’s easier to nip it in the bud immediately, if possible.

2. Consistency
Kids are constantly testing their boundaries, right?  So my hubby and I try to stay as consistent as possible in correcting potty talk and back-talk every time we hear it.  Same rules every time – in our home, it’s unacceptable language, especially when you are using it against someone else.

On a side note…I believe this “smack” talk is a completely normal part of growing up.  But it can’t be funny sometimes and disciplined other times.

3. Teach empathy
Whether my kid is the instigator (and I catch them) or they come to me with hurt feelings because someone else has said something, I ask them how it makes them feel.  How does it make them feel to have it being said to them…or how would it make them feel if someone called them that? We talk about it from this angle, and I try to use it as a lesson in empathy.

4. Different families, different rules
Ooooo, this is a toughie.  We’re all doing our best as parents, and we all have difference rules in our homes.  That’s hard for kids to understand sometimes, especially in a group social setting.  So I emphasize with my kids that in our home, it is okay to say “x,y,z,” and not okay to say, “x,y,z.”  I get confused looks and sometimes, ‘that’s not fair” – but to my kids, I say this:  it is what it is.

5. Apologize
Of course, I think this goes without saying.  If my kiddo was (gulp) the instigator, I ask them to apologize to the child they may have hurt or offended.  If my baby is the recipient, I give extra hugs, TLC, and listen to what they have to say.

Okay mamas, help me out!  What do you do to combat smack talk?  What do you do when good kids bring home bad words? What works for your family?  Please share below!

Let’s Talk About the Elf.

Disclosure: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.  Elf-on-the-Shelf

Now that the fabulous turkey dinner has been enjoyed and the pumpkin pie has been devoured…the holiday season has “officially” arrived!  I say “officially,” because it’s been following me around everywhere for a good two weeks.

It also means that it’s time for fun holiday traditions…and today I’m going to open up the discussion about Elf on the Shelf.

This blog idea started when a group of us mamas were casually talking about Christmas and our favorite family traditions.  I mentioned our Elf, Jingles, and how much the kids adore her visiting our house every December, and a few of the moms groaned.

That’s when I realized that this adorable little elf tradition may not be everyone’s idea of a good time.

Here’s my question for you, our Tiny Oranges’ readers:  Do you love the elf…or hate the elf?

Love or Loathe?

I will admit it, I love our Elf on the Shelf.

It has become one of our favorite family holiday activities.  My kids love it, my husband and I (usually) have fun talking about how the kids find the elf, and I love seeing the sparkle in my kids’ eyes every morning when they find her.  It adds a little extra magic to our home.

On the flip side, I can totally see how the elf can spiral out of control.  It’s kind of like any tradition, right?! Every family does things differently, albeit the elf, Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Leprechaun traps (I still can’t believe that is now a thing), etc.

I feel like all of this should be in one universal parenting manual – general guidelines of magical and mythical creatures/people/elves/fairies/etc.  Wouldn’t that be great??

Because kids talk and exchange notes.  Why does our Elf like to read a book with our stuffed animals…but Jane’s elf bungee jumps off the staircase into a pool of marshmallows and chocolate chips and gumdrops?

Um.  Yeaahhhh.

Here’s the worst one when it comes to The Elf on the Shelf, “Mom, why didn’t so-and-so’s elf move last night?  Is Ryan in trouble?  Is his elf okay?”

Ouch.  One of the reasons why many parents I know dislike this elf thing – the Elf has to remember to MOVE each night. Note to self: set a cell phone alarm if this becomes a recurring problem.

Others swear that they think it’s some creepy Chucky doll-like thing watching their family.

Here’s the deal – I say…to each, their own.  Because all of us parents do things differently, we just have to find a gentle way to explain that to our kids.  That each family has their own special traditions and activities and customs, no matter the time of year.  And this includes The Elf on the Shelf

Here’s a little something for all of you…

Ideas For Team ‘I Love the Elf on the Shelf’

Check out these adorable ideas…all found on via Pinterest, of course!

75 Family-Friendly Elf on the Shelf Ideas

A Month of {Fantastic} Elf on the Shelf Ideas and Printables

A Month of Elf on the Shelf Ideas

200 Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Twelve Ways to Save Your Butt When Your Elf on the Shelf Forgets to Move

For the Elf Haters

If you want a giggle, a snort of laughter, or a shared eye-roll…these elf-hating blog posts are pretty darn funny…

Overachieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies

Elf on the Shelf: Let’s all get our stories straight

7 Reasons Why We Are Never Doing Elf on a Shelf

So now I want to know – do you love the elf…or hate the elf???  Either way, I love hearing from you in the comments, so drop me a note!  And, if you hate the elf, tell me something you do love to do with your kids around the holidays!

Check Out UnBOOKed Appointments!

Unbooked Appointments Promo Code

[Sponsor]

Who loves snagging “Happy Hour” deals?  I certainly do!  That’s why I was  excited to learn more about a fantastic service called UnBOOKed – a company that finds out when your local service providers are not busy, and posts their available times at more affordable prices.

It’s basically like finding Happy Hour discounts for some of your favorite services like massages, hair appointments, yoga classes, etc.  Sweet, right?! Even sweeter, UnBOOKed is giving away a $20 off UnBOOKed Appointments promo code to five lucky readers. Make sure to enter below!

UnBOOKed likes to think of themselves as kind of “Priceline” in the local service industry.  As you know, every business has their busy times and their off times…and UnBOOKed works with your favorite places to target when they have more availability to fill appointments.

This helps YOU get the best price for quality services in your local area.  It’s a win-win for all.

How Does it Work?

You can search for specific appointment-based services that you like, or just surf through their list of participating businesses – so whether or not you know what you want, they have something for you.

Think spas, salons, personal trainers, fitness classes, chiropractors, dentists, dance classes, acupuncture, exterminator services…the options go on and on.

And, you get rewarded for being flexible with great deals and discounted prices.  Being a mama on a family budget, I love nabbing a good deal.

Participating businesses are being added every week, so your options will keep expanding.

Simply go to www.unbookedappointments.com, search for your service, and select a time that works for you.

You can choose the day and time that works for you, enter your payment information, and book your appointment.  Done!

UnBOOKed Appointments Promo Code Giveaway

Five lucky Tiny Oranges readers will get a $20 off UnBOOKed Appointments promo code to use for any service listed on UnBOOKed!  A discount on top of an already discounted price – woo hoo!  Good luck!

All you have to do is leave a blog comment below before 12:00am on 12/09/14.  Five lucky winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email with the promo code.

Good luck!

An Attitude of Gratitude

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude

To me, November represents the perfect month to focus on gratitude, and I hope these 10 ways to practice gratitude will inspire you.

Because, let’s face it, sometimes in the craziness of the day… kissing boo boos, wiping noses, calming fussies, correcting tantrums, sitting in school carpool, cleaning up spills, washing the 10th load of laundry for the day, helping with homework, playing referee to kid squabbles, etc., etc., etc…it’s easy to lose perspective.

So, fellow mommies – want to take a minute with me to think about what we’re most grateful for? (Currently, I am grateful for a quiet moment to write and a hot cup of my favorite coffee.  It’s the little things.)

I’ve actually written several blogs on the topic of gratitude…and have also found some amazing new ideas to share. Here’s my gratitude round-up for today!

Raising Grateful Kids

1. Sharing Gratitude with Kids

This blog talks about easy ways to share gratitude with our kids – and teach them about expressing their thanks.  

2. A Sweet Lesson for Kids on Giving Back 

Jen wrote this blog awhile back on how to help your kids hold a charity sale – and the importance of teaching your kids to give back.  Loved this post.

3. 6 Easy Service Projects to do With Your Kids

Here’s another Tiny Orange’s post that talks about six easy service projects that you can do with your kids – teaching them about the importance of serving others, giving back, and thinking about something bigger than themselves.

4. Jar of Thanks

This is such a cute craft idea to do with your kids –  a jar of thanks (which you write in each day in November) that can turn into a family “thankful” garland for your Thanksgiving table decoration.

garland-of-thanks

Sharing Gratitude

5. Random acts of kindness

Share your grateful heart and pay it forward!  I found some wonderful ideas onthis blogger’s “light ’em up” campaign to spread joy and kindness to family, friends, neighbors and strangers.  Check it out for some great ideas…or sit down with your family and make your own list!

6. Annual Gratitude Jar

I am obsessed with this idea I found on Pinterest via Slow Family Online, and will be doing this for 2015! It’s called a Gratitude Jar.

Starting on January 1st, each time something great/wonderful/blessed/happy/victorious happens, you (or your fellow family member) writes it down (with the date) on a little piece of paper, and places it in your designated “Gratitude Jar.”

Your whole family can watch the jar slowly fill to the brim all year…and on December 31st, you take out all of your happy thoughts, blessings, and grateful notes, and read them together as a family.  Love this.

7. Give Thanks Printable Quotes Collection

How cute is this?!  Our fellow Tiny Oranger, Suzanne, found this great idea on Simple As That – little (& FREE) inspirational quote cards, beautifully designed, and sure to perk you up and help remind you what you are most thankful for. Visit Simple As That for darling free printables like this….

Thankful Cards from www.simpleasthatblog.com

Choosing to be Grateful

Gratitude is a choice.  Here are some great ways to have (and keep!) a grateful heart:

8. Start a gratitude journal.

Write down five things (everyday) that you are grateful for and why.  The why is important – it will help you focus your thoughts.   Your older kids can participate, too!  Have them keep their own journal.  Buy one, make one, keep one electronically…whatever works best for you.  I like to write in mine after the kids are down and the house is quiet.

9. Keep a photo gratitude log.

I found this on Pinetrest and love the idea! Each day, you take pictures of different things/people/places you are grateful for.  Check out an example of a gratitude photo list on Positively Present.

10. Use gratitude word prompts.

And…let’s keep it real, mamas.  Some days (you know what days I’m talking about…), we all need a little extra reminder, right??  I found this list called, “I am grateful for…” on Fizzle Out.  These simple word prompts are great little reminders about what we can choose to be grateful for.  There are hundreds of gratitude prompt lists out there…just type in “gratitude prompt list” in your Pinterest or Google search and find one that you like.

What are you most grateful for?  How do you express your gratitude?  Teach your kids about it?  Any ideas you can share with us?  If so, please comment below!

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