Smack in the Face

Some days when you are having a rough go of it little blessings just smack you in the face and make you realize just how lucky you are.
I have too many flaws to be perfect. But I have too many blessings to be ungrateful. #Quote  I think too many people forget this...
This morning I started my day with being on the phone for over an hour with the IRS.  Sounds fun right?  I know I had a smile on my face.

 I was frustrated with a business tax form that I sent in over a month ago that apparently no one in the government can find. ARGH!!  I was about to spit nails.

Then life decided to give me a little reminder about priorities...

Kinder Keepsakes LLC makes graduation gowns for even the tiniest of babies. Need a baby cap and gown, need an infant graduation outfit... no problem!

 We have had many people send us pictures with their kids dressed in their caps and gowns, standing next to, or being held by, a graduating parent.  There are many awwwwwwwwwwes said by Aly and I aswe are reminded how cool it is to be part of their day.

This week was different. I did not see the joy in my work. I let my own life get ahead of me and forgot how very blessed I am to have two happy healthy headstrong kids and a third one on the way. I forgot to say thank you for being part of a business that sends love in the form of soothing blankets and keepsake items to other families. I closed my eyes and thought only of  what was dragging me down, stressing me out and making my days CRAZY.

Then we received an order from a returning customer.

This man is a NICU nurse that purchased our cap and gown for a family that he had grown close to. To celebrate a moment in life that deserved to be celebrated. A little one was moving on from a long stay in the NICU.

I am so thankful to have even the smallest, tiniest, most inconsequential part of their day.  To know that they are going to be smiling when they receive their gown. That they are going to be celebrating life as I should every day.

  Oh the things that I doubt that they take for granted....

So this is just a note to say thank you. To that customer. To that baby. To that family.

Thank you for letting us be a part of your joy and for handing me a large dose of perspective along the way.

Until Next Time,

A Budget Friendly Kid Christmas

So now that we are one day before Thanksgiving it is totally appropriate to start our Christmas blogging right?  I can't deny that we had a little dance party to some of our Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas favorites yesterday.

Every Year since our first child arrived in our life we have tried to make Christmas super special as a family. To give him  at least some of the Christmas magic that both my husband and I enjoyed when we were children.  I think this desire is mostly to benefit my children, but it is also somewhat selfish as I love to see the joy that is in my kids throughout the entire season as they feel the magic of this time of year.

My problem the first few years of parenthood was that I struggled with how to make all of this magic with my limited budget.

After years of trying here are a few simple ways to make Christmas more manageable for your pocketbook and still magic for your kids!

#1 - Decide who is getting gifts.

This sounds so simple but we often do not remember just how many people we would like to buy gifts for. When you are planning do not forget to factor in teachers, mail carriers, bus drivers,  and adult friends. Factor in any parties you have to attend, any host gifts you have to give etc.  Also, make sure you are clear with your relatives about who you are buying for. Are the adult siblings exchanging? Are you buying gifts for your parents? Is it better to just to buy gifts for the kids?   Be clear so that you are not under-prepared and then scraping together your pennies at the end of the season to give an extra gift. Also, you would be surprised that having a simple conversation setting expectations can take the weight off of the other person as well.  They may not be in  a position to buy gifts for everyone but are not comfortable to say so.  If you talk about it in an open and welcoming way it tends to just spread cheer rather than pressure.

#2 - Now take the list of all of the people that you have decided to buy gifts for and set a budget for each gift. This includes your kids!

Be realistic with what money you have to go around and make the decisions as to what each gift should cost before you go shopping. This way you are less tempted to have an impulse purchase that is outside of your budget. I also find it helpful to talk to my oldest child about what he wants this Christmas before I set my budget. It does not meant that he will get it =)  but it at least give me an idea of what a more expensive gift may look like.
I find that this step allows me to be creative with my gifting.  If I really want to give a gift to the bus driver but only have $5 budgeted then maybe I give a mason jar with a homemade hot cocoa mix, or a  fresh baked loaf of bread.  Something simple, heartfelt, and within budget.

If you are going to set  a budget then set it and stick to it.

#3 - Teach your children the true Meaning of The Season.

For our kids we focus on the Christmas story so that they have a good understanding of why we celebrate Christmas and that Santa, while he is a super awesome and  jolly  fella he is not the reason we celebrate Christmas.

 I love to make the kids an advent calendar  that increases the anticipation for Christmas morning but also reinforces the reason for the season. We include acts of kindness in our advent that allow us to discuss what we can do for others during December and throughout the year.  Check this one out....

My job is to teach my children the Joy of Christmas and teach them how to spread that joy to others.  That is such a great part of watching your children have the magic of the season, and often this can be done with very little hit to a budget!

#3 - Utilize the resources around you.

Do your children have that one toy that they want this year?  Is it out of your budget that we just set?  Don't fret you may still be able to purchase it but you also have to be ok with not giving your children EVERYTHING.

Learn how to check on your favorite items on some of awesome deal and savings websites around.  I have listed a few of my favorites to check out.

Also, I have found that the Facebook sites associated with these websites are great resources as well. For instance I checked yesterday and Money Saving Mom had an alert that Candy Land, Cooties, and Chutes and Ladders were only $1.35 each at Target with the proper coupons!! What a great deal for ages 6 and under! Use your friends and also fellow facebook followers. Post a question looking for a specific item and utilize many eyes to keep watch for the deal!

You may have to pull the trigger on a deal that you see quickly but it can save big money in the end.

#4 - Shop consignment and Facebook Deal sites

Especially for the youngest children you really do not need much, and the toys are often grown out of even before they are played with much. What is the old addage??... I bought my child the best toy and all they wanted was the bow and the box??  Well that is so true!!  What does that mean? It means that often times our fellow parents have many toys that their kids have not played with, are like new, but need to find new homes. Search your facebook groups for swap sites, or for sale sites that are specifically targeted to kids! You can usually even find new clothing, or new toys on the site that people just do not have the need for and would rather have the cash to buy what their child wants!

Consignment stores are also a great way to cut down on the Christmas costs. For instance I just purchased Christmas shirts that were new with tags  for my three year old at about 75% off the regular retail price. It is worth a stop in and a few minutes to sort through all of the items to find the best deals!

#5  - Do not pay for shipping. Many parents now have Amazon Prime and are spoiled by the free two day shipping  but if you have not already purchased a membership it may not be the time to fit that into your budget. This does not mean that you have to pay for shipping though. Most sites offer a free shipping coupon code but it is just your job to find it.   Check out Retail Me Not for all of your coupon code needs!

#6  - Don't be afraid to say no.

If your child does not get the latest and greatest does that mean you have ruined Christmas?   NO! If you graciously accept a gift from a random neighbor but are only able to return a plate of cookies instead of matching the dollar amount of the gift that is ok!! Listen... that is REALLY OK!!  It does not make you cheap, it means you put time into  making something with your hands and bakes a little love onto a plate.

#7 - plan for Christmas centered activities that do not cost anything. Pack the kids in the car with hot cocoa and go for trip to find the area's best Christmas lights.  Attend local parades or check out what activities the library is hosting like holiday movie night, or breakfast with Santa.

Christmas is about making memories. About learning the reason for the Season. About instilling faith in things other than presents and gifts. This can all be done with things other than money.

Until Next Time,

Sesame Street's Debut

45 years ago, today, Sesame Street made it's debut.  It's a wonderful show that teaches kids to be the best person they can be, as well as teaching them their numbers and letters, just to name a few.  How can you not love those memorable characters like, Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and of course--Oscar the grouch.  My kids LOVE Sesame Street and it's nice to know that there are good shows out there to educate our kids and help them to learn!  So in honor of Sesame Street enjoy this uplifting treat :)

What I Am!


I won't really have to write much...the pictures will explain it all.  All I have to say is this... It is such a blessing when you come across people in your life, that once you meet you know that you are going to be friends forever.  That is how I feel about Jenn and her wonderful family!  Our families are so blessed to have found each other and for one short year were able to make so many wonderful memories.  

Even though we don't live close anymore I am still so grateful that we are able to work together as partners in Kinder Keepsakes.  Cheers to many wonderful adventures we have ahead!  It's going to be a wild ride!

We just love our kids!  (In case you couldn't tell)

Cherish those special friendships.  They don't come along every day!

Sight Word Ninja!

My son is responsible for memorizing at least 50 words for his Kindergarten class. Every day after he completes his normal homework we review his sight words and add a word or two every few days.  This means that every day after his main homework is done, we move on to the flashcards.

Well... now that we are several weeks into school he is bored. Do I blame him?  Ummm... No!

This past week I was so frustrated with his attitude that it made our homework time just dreadful!

I want  learning to be fun!

So while I know it is annoying him to see the same words every day I also know it is imperative that he has the repetition so that he is able to learn, and retain these words.  These are his building blocks to reading.

Yesterday it was a new day... a Monday... a new week... a new start... so we would try a new thing.

I decided to play to my son's strengths. He is best when he is engaged. He can be active, moving, and learning at the same time. So my answer to our flashcard blues.... we shall play SIGHT WORD NINJA!

What do you need?

Sight word flashcards (CHECK !)
Nerf gun  (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!)

How do you play?

You pick walls that do not have anything breakable on them ;) and you tape the sight words all over the house.  Slightly dangerous but it adds to the fun !
This is our family motto.  Fitting right?!

I had a trusty assistant for this process which got her involved and we were able to talk about the letters we were using in the words. The great part is that this activity can be done with any subject. Learning your numbers? Letters? Addition? Subtraction?  If you can put it on a flashcard you can be a ninja!

Then you ask the beginning reader to arm himself (or herself) with his Nerf gun of choice.

The shooter is to name the sight word and then shoot it. Simple.  Yet Oh SO Satisfying.

We made the game that we would time how long it took him to make his rounds and then next time we would see if he could beat his time. Repetition people... repetition.

The best part of this whole exercise ... He said..." MOM??  You did this for me?  This is awesome... this makes my words go by so fast!!!! "

Oh yes son... I did it for you... but your smile just did it for me =)

Until Next Time,

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