Low Power Mode

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve mentioned before my great love for the “Happier” podcast, and one of the tips they once gave as a way to live a happier and healthier life was to try going into “low power mode” for a period of time. With a smartphone, “low power mode” means that your phone is still on but conserving battery life, resulting in only the basic functions being used.

I love the parallel that this can have to life. For me, low power mode doesn’t mean I need to totally unplug and go off the grid, but it does mean a reduced connectivity and a focused intent on being present with those I’m with.

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My life these days: a whole lot of cuteness, a little bit hot mess haha!

The holiday season is the perfect time to consider going into low power mode. It is so easy to fill up this season with a ton of commitments and busyness, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you’re intentional with your time and actually let yourself enjoy the season!

I’m not going to lie, I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by the mental workload I’ve got lately. We are in our fifth week of the basement renovation and I’ve had to make a lot of decisions, both big and small, with this project (how does anyone build a house from scratch?! So many decisions!!) Over the past few weeks I’ve also had to keep up with pediatrician appointments, LJ’s birthday party, holiday commitments, etc. and all the regular things that keep our life running smoothly like grocery shopping, laundry, and feeding all our dogs and humans. It can take a toll! So I’ve decided to use the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to simplify things and enter “low power mode.”

A few ways I’m going into low power mode this holiday season:

I signed off Facebook. I’ve come to realize that while I do enjoy Instagram and draw both inspiration and encouragement from it, Facebook is not something I enjoy anymore. It’s become kind of a time waster and never leaves me feeling filled up after mindlessly scrolling. In an effort to be more intentional with my time this holiday season, I’m taking a step back from Facebook and will be signed off for the rest of 2019 (and maybe beyond . . . we’ll see). Honestly, I have no desire to totally go off the grid and eliminate all forms of social media, but I am feeling the need to reduce its overall presence in my life right now and this already feels like a great step in that direction!

I choose our BEST yes. Lysa Terkhurst wrote a book called “The Best Yes” and it has shaped how I address all the potential commitments that come our way, especially during the holidays. Our little family thrives on routines right now. Both kids are sleeping through the night and I want to keep it that way! This means avoiding commitments that interfere with naptime or bedtime. In some ways, this simplifies things because it is an easy “no” if something is happening at say, noon, because LJ goes down for a nap around 12:30-1. If there is something we really want to do and it messes up our routine for one day, we can say yes! One day doesn’t mess us up, but many days will. Since we’re careful with what we say yes to, it doesn’t throw us off too much when we say yes to that one great thing.

I find ways to simplify my commitments. I’m a natural perfectionist, so letting go of the desire to do everything above and beyond is a hard thing to do but I’ve made great strides over the years! Now I think: how can I do this as simply as possible while still doing it well? Perfect example: a friend of mine recently had a medical procedure and our friend group organized a meal train for her family. I signed up for a meal last night. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, my house is in a weird explosion of unpacked-but-not-set-up Christmas decor, we need to pack for our travels this weekend, I’ve been running around picking out things that I needed to make a decision on this week for our renovation like paint and door handles. Rather than add the task of cooking a homemade meal, I relied on tried-and-true items I know are delicious from the grocery store. I put together pulled pork, slider rolls, pre-made potatoes, frozen veggies in a steamable bag, and store bought cookies. And my friend was thrilled! She had a yummy meal she didn’t have to cook or shop for and I was able to serve her in that way without adding a ton of undue stress on myself.

I hope you can find ways to enter low power mode this holiday season and enjoy this time of year. If you have any other ways to keep things running in low power mode, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

 

LJ’s Second Birthday

Well, it’s official: I have a two-year-old!

LJ’s actual birthday was Friday so we had a little mini celebration as a family. After Justin got off work, we went to Culver’s for a little family date. LJ received a few birthday cards in the mail from family so we let him open those one at a time throughout the dinner. (Sorry for the terrible photo quality! I was actually videoing him opening everything so these are just screen grabs from the videos).

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My grandparents always send some dimes for his piggy bank – so sweet!

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We also got a book for him so that he would have a little present to open during the birthday meal. He loves trains and lift-the-flap books so when I saw this during a friend’s recent book party, I knew it was the perfect choice.

After finishing our meals we each got an ice cream for dessert. LJ usually just shares his dessert with one of us so the fact that he got his own cup of ice cream with sprinkles was a big deal for him. He was so excited and definitely enjoyed it!

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Instead of a bunch of gifts, Justin and I decided to get one big gift that he would really love: a train table! We received a hand-me-down table from a friend and saved it until Saturday morning. Justin woke up early and got it all set up so it was ready to go when LJ woke up. He was SO excited to see it in his playroom and played with it all day!

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On Saturday after LJ’s nap, some of our family came over for his little party.  I stuck with the train theme and just grabbed a bunch of things around the house to decorate. I bought a “happy birthday” sign from the dollar spot at Target back when I was teaching and it gets brought out for every party. I re-used the train and conductor’s hat from LJ’s Halloween costume, grabbed some books and trains we already had, pulled out my white serving dishes and letterboard and voila!

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My friend Amber made some amazing train cookies and I bought a little 4 inch cake from a local grocery store to put candles in. We served super fancy cuisine – Papa John’s pizza, chips, and a veggie tray. LJ loved it! 🙂

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Now unfortunately, once the party actually started, I was so absorbed in it that I lost track of my phone and didn’t take pictures! Justin snapped a few, but overall, we were all just enjoying ourselves without phones.

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I did manage to get this one of my sister and Vi – how sweet!

Justin and I made the decision a few months ago to have a “no gifts” party for LJ. We did this last year and wanted to do it again this year. We agreed that not only is LJ still too little to really understand gifts are typically given on birthdays, but his birthday is super close to the holidays and he will be receiving a lot of things then. Also, we are minimal-ish people: we’re not trying to live with 5 things or be super controlling and never accept more items, but our home is a more pleasant place and our lives are more enjoyable when we’re not overrun with stuff so we’re intentional about what comes into our house.  Because we still wanted family to be involved and participate in his gift, I bought unpainted trains and asked our family members to decorate a car instead of giving a gift. Some did their own, some couples shared one. We painted trains during the party and those that couldn’t make the party had theirs made and sent to us ahead of time.

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This idea worked SO well and it was so fun to see the creativity (check out my brother-in-law’s “hippopotamoose-caboose” ha)! They were all so unique and reflected everyone’s personality. LJ loves them and it’s sweet to see him play with all of them.

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Happy birthday, my sweet LJ! It was such a joy to celebrate your life (and bribe you with one more cookie before bedtime when I realized I hadn’t gotten a picture with you – haha!)

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Two.

Tomorrow is a big day for our family. LJ is going to turn TWO.

I need a minute for that to sink in.

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How in the world do I have a two-year-old?? I know people say all the time how fast it all goes, but milestones like this make me pause and really understand just how true that is. The days can seem so long (especially these days with all these toddler emotions that are happening) but the years are so. very. short.

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that our journey to parenthood wasn’t easy. Before LJ was born I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and was emotionally and physically traumatic. LJ is the answer to so many prayers in so many ways. He is the joy after my deep sorrow, the laughter after my many tears. This little boy stole my heart two years ago and has held a firm grip on it ever since.

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If I could describe LJ in one word, it would be “motion.” This kid is always on the go! He loves running, spinning, playing, galloping, and recently started jumping. He loves anything with wheels (trains, trucks, tractors, you name it), finding planes in the sky, watching sports and trying to play them – his energy seems endless! Given the choice to stay indoors or go outside, he will always choose outside. Every now and then, there will be a rare moment where he just wants to cuddle with his mama and you better believe I soak those up! He’ll even sometimes hold my hand or put his arm around me and oh my word, my heart just melts.

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LJ is also incredibly observant. He’ll notice the smallest speck on the ground or the tiniest bug in a window. He notices whenever Vi is wearing a bow and insists on wearing one himself. He likes to search for the moon in the sky, he perks up at the sound of a train or a plane (he often picks up on it before we’ve even noticed the distant sound!) and he always alerts us to when his sister is crying.

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LJ likes to explore and show off his discoveries. He likes to color and is obsessed with stickers. He has been in speech therapy for a few months now and his language is developing and vocabulary is finally building beyond a few words. His little “hi!” is the absolute cutest music to my ears.

When I was pregnant with Vi, I worried how LJ would react to a sibling. I expected jealousy, tantrums, and maybe even some aggression. He has surprised both Justin and I by taking it all in stride. He is the most natural big brother, so caring and sweet! He loves to hold Vi, he talks to her and gives her kisses, and if anything, I have to tell him to be gentle with his love so he doesn’t smother her with it. 😉 He loves his little sister (and her pacifier too, but that’s a whole other story ha!)

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I could go on and on, but I’ll stop because otherwise I think I’ll make myself cry. Instead, I’m just going to take a little walk down memory lane and look back at the last two years with LJ.

LJ, there aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love you. Happy birthday my sweet boy. ❤

Intentional Gifts: Toys with a Greater Purpose

A few years ago someone told me that they think of spending money like voting for the type of world we want to live in. You use the power of your $ to tell companies what you value and what type of products you want. (A good example of this is grocery shopping – if it’s important to you to have quality organic food, you need to purchase quality organic food. The more money companies make off of organic food, the more they’re inspired to keep working to provide lots of organic food options. Then other companies notice and start providing their own organic products, the food industry starts to shift, now there are more organic food options – often at better price points! – because consumers ‘voted’ with their money).

This has stuck with me ever since, and I now try to be very intentional with the type of purchases I make. Whenever possible, I try to consider the type of world I want to live in and ‘vote’ with the power of my dollar. Does it always happen? No. But one area that I do really try to consider how I’m ‘voting’ is with toys.

Toys with a Greater Purpose

Last week, in my post about gift ideas that aren’t conventional toys, I shared some ideas for practical gifts, experiences, and consumable products. It’s true that I love non-toy gifts, but it’s also true that I do love toys! I just don’t love having a TON of toys around. There is a big difference in my mind between having a few quality toys that get frequently played with and inspire my kids to be creative, use their imagination, and have fun than having a playroom so full of toys that half of them don’t even get played with. (As always, if that’s not your thing, no judgement here! This is what works for us).

My kids will always have toys on their Christmas wish lists. Since they are still too little to request specific toys, I’m the one coming up with items for their lists and I try to be intentional about what goes on the list. I love finding toys that are not only cute and fun but also have some sort of greater purpose: this could mean supporting a small business selling products made in the USA or fair trade products made in Peru. It also means trying to find toys that are made from safer materials or sustainable materials (even better if they’re made from recycled materials). In other words I’m not looking for just a toy, but I’m looking for my dollar to also do a little good in the world. Now, does every single toy we own fit this bill? No. Do my kids still receive toys that aren’t on their list? Of course they do. We’re not perfect and I’m not worried about making sure every single thing that comes into our house has a greater purpose. We just try our best to make the effort when we can and don’t lose sleep over it when we can’t.

Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share some of the brands/stores I’ve found over the years that sell toys that have a mission or purpose that I love. This isn’t sponsored at all and I’m not making any money off of this – I just enjoy sharing what I’ve found! Plus, you know how I like to keep things as simple as possible so having this compiled list of go-to stores makes my own holiday shopping simpler.

There are so many great options beyond the specific items I share so if you’ve got some little ones in your life that you’re needing gift ideas for, I hope you’ll consider checking one of these brands out!

Plan Toys – I love Plan Toys because they are eco-friendly and made from sustainable materials like reclaimed rubber woods. They also have a strong focus on providing toys that aid in child development. A green company that makes development a priority and has cute products? Sign me up! LJ’s still frequently plays with this bulldozer that he got last Christmas so we’re putting this firetruck, this mini roller, and this excavator on his list this year.

Eco Kids – I mentioned in my previous post that I love asking for consumable toys because they are fun, inspire imagination and creativity, and eventually get used up (less clutter over time). I love this company because it is a family-owned business that uses non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging AND all products are made in the USA. I love these crayons (made from all natural beeswax so I don’t worry if LJ puts them in his mouth. . . which he does) and I have this finger paint set on his Christmas list this year.

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Begin Again – This small US company is committed to making toys for plastic-free play by utilizing plants such as rubberwood, natural rubber, and water-based stains. Last year LJ got this dump truck (seen in the corner of the picture above!) made of a bio-plastic consisting of sugar cane and corn cob and he still plays with it almost every day. They also have cute puzzles and bath toys!

Caaocho – This company makes bath toys out of 100% natural rubber and they are colored with food-grade paint. Plus they are super cute! LJ got this turtle during his first Christmas and Vi has this butterflyfish on her list this year.

Cuddle + Kind – I love the mission behind this company! They sell heirloom-quality knit dolls that are SO beautiful. Their products are handmade and fair trade, meaning the artisans that make them are compensated fairly for their work. Not only that, but for each doll purchased, the company provides 10 meals to children in need around the world. It’s just an incredible mission and I feel so good purchasing their products. Now their dolls aren’t cheap, but my preference would be to get one super cute and high quality doll rather than 10 cheaper dolls that aren’t made as ethically or sustainably. Vi has this one already and this one is on her Christmas list. 

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Green Toys – These toys are made safe in the USA from 100% recycled materials. They have recycled over 83 million milk jugs to this day! I have this dough set on LJ’s list this year – bonus that the dough is made with organic flour in a food-safe facility!

Chalk Full of Design – These small business sells a variety of cute and educational chalkboards made in the USA. I love so many of them! LJ is a little too small this year, but next year I’m going to ask for this personalized name chalkboard!

New Creation – I love supporting small businesses and I especially love supporting small businesses with a great mission. This shoppe’s mission is “design for justice” and they partner with many organizations in the fight to end sex trafficking and provide next steps for survivors. They are faith based non-profit selling survivor made goods and fair trade accessories, and they also provide prevention education on and rescue from human trafficking. I always ask for jewelry for myself (they have a great selection, and this mini stud set is on my list this year!) but they also offer some adorable items for children.  LJ got this donut rattle and this woodland fox for his first Christmas and I love these bandana bibs for Vi.

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OMG – baby LJ making me feel all the feels!

Secondhand shops – Another great place to buy toys? A secondhand shop/Facebook marketplace/yard sale/etc! There are so many places that sell used toys that are still in great condition. These toys are often sold for a fraction of the retail price and still have a lot of life left in them! Now does this mean every toy there is in good condition and worth buying? No. I’m not interested in adding junk toys to our collection, but when there are quality options, I’m all for it! Last year LJ got a full bag of Mega Blocks and a Melissa and Doug Spin Gear Board for Christmas. Both items were bought at a local consignment shop for less than $10 total (retail price is about $32 for both).  They were both in great condition and he loves playing with them. And I feel good about the purchases because they were inexpensive and gave new life to toys that were no longer being played with by their original owners and might’ve ended up in a landfill way too soon. Buying secondhand means you might have to hunt a little more for treasures, but it can be very worth it!

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What are your favorite places to buy toys? If you have found a great shop that sells toys and has a great mission behind it, I’d love to hear about it!

Guest Suite Renovation Progress

When Justin and I moved into our house, we fell in love with the layout and all the space, but we knew that the house needed some TLC to make it our own. We’re so excited to tackle it room by room and I’ve decided to document it here on the blog – I hope you enjoy the updates as much as we do! Our current project is: our guest suite.

Our house has four bedrooms. Three of them are on the top floor and the fourth is in the finished basement with an en suite, making it a natural choice for a guest room. Guests have some privacy and sleep undisturbed should our children decide to cry in the middle of the night. We love hosting and have overnight guests at least once a month so it is a priority for us to have a cozy and comfortable space for anyone staying with us.

While we loved the location and general layout of the guest room, there were some issues with it that caused it to be #2 on our list of rooms to update (our playroom being #1 – see that reveal here). First, the bedroom is actually *not* technically a bedroom because there is no window. This makes it PITCH black at night (there is also no window in the bathroom). In addition, the shower was problematic (small and difficult to control temperature), there was no heat source (no vents anywhere in either room!), there were strange and inconvenient outlet placements, there was a weird little built-in with an awkward TV opening, and cosmetically . . . let’s just say even when I did some minor decorating it didn’t exactly fit my style.

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Our renovation list includes:

-Install a window to make it a legal bedroom and introduce natural light

-Remove wallpaper, patch walls, and paint

-Move several outlets to more convenient locations

-Put door on the built-in TV opening (will be used for linen storage)

-Remove shower and replace with tile, new fixtures, and niche

-Replace bathroom flooring

-Replace vanity

-Replace bathroom lighting

-Add some sort of heat source to each room

Whew! Quite the laundry list of tasks, huh? We’ve done a lot of DIY projects in our previous homes but a big renovation like this is far beyond our capabilities so we hired a contractor. I’d say we’re about halfway done with the renovation so I thought it’d be a good time to show you some of the progress!

So far in the bedroom, the trim and doors have been removed, the doors have been primed, the wallpaper has been removed (HALLELUJAH!), and the walls have been patched. It has been SO cold in Indiana so we’ve held off on the window, but next week the weather is supposed to warm up a bit so it’s going in soon!

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In the bathroom we’ve made a LOT of progress and it’s going to be even better than I dreamed! When we ripped out the old shower, we discovered that there was some unused space behind the shower wall due to the bedroom built-ins. Jackpot!

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We immediately decided to change our plans and expand the shower into that unused space. This means more room for our guests to stand and we’re also able to install a bench along the back wall (our previous plans involved just a triangular shelf in the corner). This does significantly impact the cost, but I think it will be SO worth it. Every time I look at it now I’m just giddy and there’s not even tile yet!

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Whoop whoop!! Look at all that space!

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The old tile is all ripped up and I’m so excited to see the new tile go in. We’re still waiting on the tile for the shower floor to come in but in the meantime I’m getting all the heart eyes looking at what we have so far.

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The one area that isn’t going to work out like I’d hoped is our vanity. I had hoped to replace the old one with a floating vanity. I dreamt of this Ikea vanity with Semihandmade drawer fronts, but our space is about 3/4 inches too small. We considered having a custom one made but then discovered that due to the way plumbing had been originally installed, we’d have to dig the old plumbing out of the concrete, move it, and create a faux wall at the base of the floating vanity. It could have been done, but at a much higher cost than planned. We had to make a decision on what to spend the extra money on: a larger shower or a floating vanity. The vanity would add style but the shower would add so much extra space, function, and value to the house. It was a no-brainer. So the plan now is to keep the old vanity cabinet but update it with paint, new handles, and a new vanity top. It may not be *quite* what I originally envisioned but I’m still super excited!

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This is the first time Justin and I have done full room renovation, so we’re learning a lot. Mostly, these things take more time and money than expected ha! Overall, we’re really happy with the overall process and are very eager to see the finished product in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Let’s Look: Entertaining Ideas

It’s that time of the month again where I link up with Shay and Erika for their monthly “Let’s Look” post and this month is all about entertaining ideas. Perfect timing as the holidays are fast approaching!

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Justin and I love to have people over to our house. We love to host themed parties, game nights, casual dinners, backyard BBQs . . . the list goes on! When we were looking at buying the home we now live in, one of the biggest selling points was how well the space and layout worked for having lots of people over. We love providing a space for people to gather and create memories together.

Hosting can so fun but also super stressful so I try to keep things as simplified as possible. I wanted to focus this post on just a few tips I have that keep my focus on having fun and making memories rather than stressing out over details.

Tip #1: Don’t wait for your house to look “perfect”

When we were first married, we lived in a rental house with a full-sized basement that was just one gigantic room. Some of the room was storage that we partitioned off by duct-taping curtains to a soffit hanging from the ceiling. Not one piece of furniture was new – some of the hand-me-downs had already been used by multiple people before they reached us. It was FAR from perfect, but we made some of the best memories there. We hosted groups of friends for bible studies, Halloween parties, baby showers, and we even managed to squeeze 16 people around a mash-up of tables for Friendsgiving one year. The table was so long we had to use multiple tablecloths and it still didn’t fully cover everything! It was far from a picture-perfect tablescape but it was one of the most joyful and fun dinners we’ve ever had.

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When we moved in May to what is (we hope!) our forever home, we knew we wanted it to be a space to gather friends and family together. We also knew that the house needed some TLC. Bathrooms needed updating, walls needed painting, landscape needed work.

We have a long list of things we want to do to this house to make it “ours” and put our own stamp on it. We don’t have enough furniture for all the rooms and what we do have doesn’t necessarily fit the room or match the existing wall color. It would be really tempting to wait until it was “ready” to have people over. But honestly, we could be waiting years until we have it like we want and we’re just not willing to wait that long to entertain. So we add discolored leaves to our decades-old hand me down table, bring out extra folding chairs, and have people over anyways!

The point is, don’t wait to host until your house looks perfect. Host with what you have.  If this means pulling out folding tables and camping chairs to have seating for everyone, so be it. Memories can be made over paper plates just as well as they can be made over fine china.

Tip #2: Don’t make everything

Whether it’s decorations (if needed) or food, I highly recommend outsourcing what you can. I used to try to make everything homemade but that inevitably led to stress and frustration. These days, I focus on making a few things myself and then buy the rest. Makes things SO much simpler and less stressful!

Potlucks are another way to go – provide a main dish and ask others to contribute a side or dessert. A delicious meal comes together and everyone is happy because they only had to do a small portion of the prep.

And as far as party decorations go, I used to almost exclusively make my own but these days, I save myself a lot of time and trouble by making just a few simple ones and then buying the rest. I also try to save what I can to be re-used for future parties so even less effort is required in the future. 🙂

Tip #3: Have “standard” food ideas

If we’re having a backyard party, we’re either having burgers and hotdogs with chips and potato salad or Justin is grilling chicken with his favorite marinade with grilled veggies and salad. If I’m hosting a girls night, I stick with desserts, appetizers, and drinks and ask everyone to bring something to contribute. For a game night, we’re ordering pizza.

In other words, I’m not trying to recreate the wheel with menus. We have our go-tos that are easy to make and appeal to a wide variety of people and we stick with those. It makes planning and preparation so much easier! I also have a few tiered servers (such as this or this) that help literally and physically elevate a food table. It looks a little fancy but goes with any theme, is super easy to put out, and is also a good option to save space if I don’t have a large table.

 

What are your best tips for entertaining?

 

Non-Toy Gift Ideas

The first snow is on the ground here in Indiana and something about looking outside and seeing a fresh coat of white puts me in a festive mood. I love this time of year – cozy nights snuggled under blankets, candles burning, gathering with friends and family for a meal. I love the holiday seasons!

With every holiday season comes the inevitable gift-giving. My children are lucky to have grandparents, great-grandparerents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love them and want to give them gifts. Every year around this time, I start getting asked what is on their Christmas list and every year, I struggle to come up with enough things to go around. On the one hand, I love that others want to show love to my children in this way. On the other, I don’t want our family to just accumulate stuff for the sake of getting gifts. I want our gifts to be meaningful, special, and not just clutter-creating.

LJ’s Christmas list does have some toys on it. I get it, I totally like gifting fun items! Who just wants to gift things like socks all the time? But that doesn’t mean that ALL his presents need to be toys. Currently, his list has practical things, experience gifts and consumable products. And yes, we did include a few books and specific toys he’ll love.  That’s completely okay! I’m not trying to be a grinch here. Just trying to keep what comes into our house a little more well-rounded.

Today I thought I’d share some ideas of what I’ve put on LJ and Vi’s Christmas lists. I want to be clear that if you’re all about giving toys for Christmas and want to go that route with all their presents – go for it! I’m not judging anyone for requesting or gifting toys. I just prefer to have a wider variety of gifts and avoid adding lots of clutter to my house. I’m sharing what we’re asking for this year in case anyone else out there is looking for ideas for gifts to ask for that aren’t toys.

Practical Gifts

I know my kiddos are still really little and don’t care so much about getting “fun” gifts, so I loaded up their lists with things that they need for the coming year. This includes things like snow pants, snow boots, and socks. I also put practical things on LJ’s list that are a little more fun like this Paw Patrol potty (he needs one for potty training and he LOVES Paw Patrol so this will be fun for him haha) and a backpack. Since she will only be 4 months old and we already have plenty of age-appropriate toys for her, Vi’s list is almost exclusively practical with things like clothing, a swimsuit for summer, a mirror for the car, bathtub spout cover, diapers and wipes.

Meaningful experiences

LJ adores his grandparents and loves to spend time with them. And on the flip side, they love spending time with him! This makes experience gifts an easy thing to ask for. I love the idea of experience gifts because they keep on giving – they are exciting to get, fun to look forward to, enjoyable in the moment, and afterwards they become fond memories to cherish. I let our loved ones know if they want to give an experience gift, such as a zoo pass, they are welcome to join our family when we use it or they can even take our children on a special date without us and experience it together. Justin and I did this several years ago for our niece and nephew; we bought them passes to a local children’s museum and then took them ourselves. We don’t get to see them as often as we would like so it was a special day just us four and we made some great memories and had so much fun!

Here are some ideas of experience gifts I have requested for my kids (or may ask for one day):

Zoo Pass

Whether it’s a day pass or a full membership, this is an experience gift that appeals to children of many ages. LJ absolutely loves going to the zoo, and we are lucky to live close to a great children’s zoo where he can not only see many different animals, but he can feed giraffes, ride a train, and brush goats (or kiss like he’s doing in the picture – haha! So sweet and so gross). The zoo is always a hit!

Day at a Children’s Museum

We have a science museum nearby. My parents live near a living history museum and my in-laws live near a children’s discovery museum. We all live in vastly different sized towns and cities so just because you live in a small town doesn’t mean there isn’t an option for you within driving distance. Maybe there is something 5 minutes away and this experience gift takes an afternoon. Maybe you have to drive an hour and it becomes more of an all-day trip. Maybe the museum is geared towards something specific, like art or science, or maybe it is more of a play museum. Or maybe it’s not a museum at all – for my nephew’s 7th birthday instead of getting him a physical gift, we bought tickets for our families to go to a trampoline park (highly recommend!) Whether it’s a hands-on museum or an indoor waterpark, there are memories to be made. 🙂

Inexpensive local experiences

Experience gifts don’t have to be expensive. Just think about what your child loves doing and try to create a special experience around it. Maybe the gift is a movie night at grandma’s with a new DVD or Redbox/Netflix/Amazon Prime/etc. movie, popped popcorn, and your child’s favorite splurge candy. Maybe there’s a local farm you can visit and explore together. If you live near a town with minor league teams, you can often find inexpensive tickets to a game. If your child loves to help in the kitchen, perhaps a gift of baking (gifting ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then spending the afternoon baking together) is something he or she would enjoy. My nephew loves Legos, and if we buy him a set, Justin helps him put it together and this has become a special ‘thing’ they now do. There are a lot of options out there for things to do that don’t cost a ton but will provide lots of fun!

Consumable Gifts

A consumable gift is something that can be used up. It’s no secret that I am pretty minimal-ish and don’t like clutter. A gift that can get used up is perfect for creating fun memories without a ton of long-lasting clutter! LJ is starting to really enjoy doing little art projects at home so we put things like stickers and crayons (I love these!) on his list this year and I know he will be so excited to receive them.

Examples of consumable gifts:

-bubbles

-stickers/sticker books

-crayons, markers, colored pencils

-coloring books/activity books

-sidewalk chalk

-fingerpaint

-bath bombs in fun colors

I also love consumable gifts because they often inspire creativity and play in ways that conventional toys don’t. Win win!

And in addition to all those ideas, we did put a few toys and books on LJ’s Christmas list, although I try to be intentional about the toys I do ask for (I’ll share more about that next week). I’m not about restricting toys, just about finding balance. 🙂

Do you have any other ideas for non-toy gift ideas? Or toys that are definitely worth asking for? I’d love to hear them!