Advent Traditions: The Book Basket

 
 I love the Advent season. 

I love the cozy evenings, the early sunset,and the Christmas decorations in my living room. 

I love the traditions that we have started as a family. We always decorate the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My life is less stressful that weekend, as the Turkey Trot is over, and Matt’s busy season at church is just about ramping up. . .but not quite yet. 

Since I am married to a pastor, Advent is filled with many evenings at home alone with the children. This used to bother me, but as I matured, and the children got a bit older and not so needy, I found that I enjoy this time with them. 

One of the things that I have always enjoyed was reading to the children. I was read to for hours at a time as a child, and those moments on the laps of my loved ones are some of my sweetest family memories. 

I admit, I don’t read to my kids nearly as much as I was read to. I grew up before Netflix, cable TV and even video games. I was one of two children, not six, and I had the rare luxury of a set of grandparents living in my home during my very young years. 

But during Advent, the beginning of the church year, I make some New Years Resolutions of sorts. . .and one of those resolutions is to read more with the kids. 

We have been reading through “Jotham’s Journey” during our Advent devotional and have been loving it. 

The other way that I fit more reading into our evenings is the the Advent Book Basket. The week before Thanksgiving, I scour our bookshelves for all of the Christmas books, I grab some of last years’ wrapping paper and I wrap each book and put them in a pretty basket. Each night, after devotions, the girls take turns opening a package and we read the book together. 

Some of the books are quite old, actual relics from my warm childhood. (Including the sadly, out of print “Donkey Daniel in Bethlehem.” I will be sharing that book on Instagram next week!). Every year though, I add at least one book to our collection. 

 This year I added Callista Gingrich’s delightful “Christmas in America” to our rotation. I was sent this book for review, and the girls and I thoroghly enjoyed it! “Christmas in America” is fifth in a series of picture books featuring Ellis the Elephant. Elllis travels through American history to see how Christmas has been celebrated, in good times and in bad times. We, of course, were delighted to see North Dakota represented! The older children enjoyed learning more about each event in the resource guide at the end of the book.  

 What do you enjoy reading together in Advent and Christmas time? Leave a title in the comments and I may add it to our basket!

Updating my Fall Work Wardrobe with Gordmans

Gordmans

*Disclosure: I was provided with a gift card in order to facilitate this post. I was not required to post a positive review and all opinions are 100% my own.

Gordmans

 

This is my third fall season in my not-so-new job. As I wrote about earlier this week, my work wardrobe has been a work in progress, and I finally feel like I have been hitting a mindful stride in what I wear and how I wear it.

Back in August I was approached by Gordmans, a discount department store, to do a feature on back to school shopping. I was happy to do so, but, at the time, our nearest Gordmans store was about three hours away. When I looked at the website, I noticed that a brand new Gordmans store would be opening right here in town at the end of September. So I asked if we could change the editorial focus to Fall work fashion.

Shopping at Gordmans is a new experience for me, but not a new store at all. As a matter of fact, Gordmans is celebrating 100 years this year! And because of that, Gordmans sent me a $100 gift card to spruce up my fall wardrobe and to learn more about Gordmans.

From their website, I was able to learn a little more about the Gordmans story:

Born in 1915 out of a small retail store at the corner of 16th and Chicago in Omaha, Nebraska, Gordmans is proud to celebrate more than 100 years in business. Fashion trends may come and go, but Gordmans has thrived knowing that low-cost, high-quality apparel and décor are always on-trend.

“We’ve delivered high-quality merchandise at great values for 100 years. Not many companies come close to fulfilling that promise, or lasting that long,” said Andy Hall, president and chief executive officer. “Looking toward the future, we will continue to build our national brand portfolio and further enhance the guest experience as Gordmans continues to grow by adding stores and ecommerce channels.”

First, I peeked at the website, as I’m learning to plan my clothing purchases more carefully. There was quite a variety online, but merchandise varies from store to store. Guests can now conveniently shop online at Gordmans.com, providing 24/7 savings of up to 60% off department store prices, anytime, anywhere. There is also free shipping on all orders over $75.

I arrived at the new store with a few things on my list. I was looking for burgundy jeans, a long cardigan, a burgundy top, and a camel blazer. The store was well laid out, and very large. I am a seasoned discount shopper, but often find shopping at discount stores to be overwhelming, as there can be so much sorting out to do when looking through the racks of clothes. I was happy to see that Gordmans has everything set out neatly and attractively and it was easy to sort by size.

I thought that this sign in the fitting room was cheery!

Gordmans

I ended up finding a long, grey cardigan that will go with much of my fall wardrobe, a cute, comfy, swingy burgundy top, and a fun pink and white chevron tunic top that gets me compliments every time I wear it. (I am generally afraid of bold prints, but I am working on getting out of my comfort zone!).

I also found some fun accessories–like this sliver toned wristwatch with just the right amount of bling, and some gold toned earrings to balance out my earring collection. I have been working on getting more accessories into my wardrobe as they really do make the outfit! Gordmans

I even was able to pick up a pair of fun umbrellas for the twins who had been begging for them–which is a guarantee for no more rain!

All of this for $101! I also joined the gRewards program and I am halfway to a $10 reward plus, I earned $10 in Gordmans dollars! Gordmans

I don’t *need* anything more for my fun fall capsule wardrobe. . .but I am sure I’ll be back!

 

 

LeapPad Platinum Review

LeapPad Platinum review

 

Disclosure: LeapFrog sent me a LeapPad Platinum and the PAW Patrol Imagicard game in order to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

LeapPad Platinum Review

We have been enjoying LeapFrog products for a long time, my oldest is 19 and learned to count and learn ABCs with a LeapFrog Learning bus.

Our younger children are really enjoying this latest offering from LeapFrog. The LeapPad Platinum tablet is a kid-friendly tablet that allows for fun, educational game play as well as safe web-surfing.

The seven inch touch screen displays crisp graphics, and as an impatient mom, I totally appreciate the increased processor speed. The battery life is long, between 5 and 7 hours depending on activity, and can be charged with USB or AC adapter. No batteries needed! Win!

All of our older LeapPad cartridges work in this LeapPad, and we can also share downloaded content purchased for our older devices as well. I have twin daughters, so I appreciate that I can download a game once and both girls can have the game on their own devices. This is a great savings for us (plus, let’s face it, those cartridges get lost.) There are over 1,000 games and apps available, and if you watch sales on Leapfrog.com you can get some great deals!

This is a kid tough and kid friendly tablet and my girls love the lease of use. I admit to even having fun playing some of the games–you never quite outgrow the joy of leveling up.

My girls love the dual cameras and the video recorder and have fun playing the the included Photo Fun Utility.

One of my favorite new features is the enhanced parental controls. There is now an option to set a time limit for playing and then the device shuts down for a preset amount of time. This is a great way to help limit screen time.

The LeapPad Platinum includes 8GB of memory and 10 apps (music player plus 10 songs, Pet Pad Party, Pet Chat, Photo fun Ultra, five Utility Apps, and a choice of App download).

This is the perfect, age appropriate tablet for the 9 and under set. My twin five year-olds give it two thumbs up!

PAW Patrol Imagicard Game Review

This game has been the biggest hit with my five year-old twin daughters.

The package includes a collectable tin, the Imagicards (and they are sturdy–much thicker than a standard playing card) a fold out play mat to sort the cards onto, and a downloadable game. And this is the key for a family with multiples: the game is downloadable so can be played, at the same time, by more than one child. When a new game comes into the house, this is a HUGE bonus!

This game arrived in the mail while my girls were off visiting grandparents, so I had a chance to play-test it myself, and I’m not ashamed to say that I really enjoyed playing the game. It is engaging and goal driven.

This is the perfect game to get my girls warmed up for Kindergarten. It covers numbers 1-20, basic shapes, patterns, sorting, and some basic arithmetic. My girls may be twins, but they are not the same, and the game adjusts seamlessly for their skill level.

On a rainy day it kept them both occupied, entertained, and quarrel free for hours! They don’t watch a lot of TV, but were somewhat familiar with the Paw Patrol characters. However, the game plays fine if you have no knowledge of the show. The storyline in the game is self contained.

I think it is clever how the cards work within the game; when a card is “scanned”, or photographed, the characters leap onto the screen. The game can also be played without the cards, as there is a digital card gallery included. I find it interesting that one of my girls likes to physically flip through the cards, while my other prefers the digital gallery.

This game is prefect for children from 3-5 years.

Buy It:

LeapPad Platinum on Amazon.com and LeapFrog.com

PAW Patrol Imagicard game on Amazon.com and LeapFrog.com

 

National Reading Month: An Interview With Kristi Yamaguchi

Some of my warmest childhood memories are of me sitting on the lap of my parents and grandparents being read to. Reading is a big part of our family life–and if you have been in our house you know that we are overrun by books!

However, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Education, only about half of all children aged 3-5 are being read to on a daily basis. (And, honestly, during a busy week my kids likely fall through those cracks as well.)

Last week I was contacted with the opportunity to hold a phone interview with Olympic Figure Skater, children’s’ book author and literacy advocate, Kristi Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi is teaming up with LeapFrog and her Always Dream Foundation to promote reading for National Reading month in March.

Kristi and I are the same age, and grew up within 100 miles of each other (though we never crossed paths that I know of!). I remember watching her compete in the Olympics from my college dorm room. To say that I was excited to get the chance to speak with her, is an understatement. Please excuse the fact that I picked up a respiratory bug from my little ones and sound less than healthy!

Click here for more information on the 20/20 reading challenge and start a great new habit today!

*** PLEASE NOTE: This interview opportunity is sponsored by LeapFrog***

Read With Me Wednesday: Moms’ Night Out

 

Read-With-Us-Wednesday-1

Well, real life caught up with me last week and I missed our first discussion. I hope you popped over to Essie’s Blessings to chat with her last week! (and pop over there today as well to share your thoughts.)

This month we are reading through Moms’ Night Out and this week we are discussing chapters 4-8. Why such short readings? Well, we wanted a “book club” that all of our mom friends could participate in. Sometimes a book a week or a book a month seems impossible for a busy mom. But eh, a few chapters. . . less than one a day? That is doable. So join us. There is no pressure. We won’t test you on the material! But, we would LOVE for you to join the conversation and let us know what you think.

Today I’m going to talk about the enormous pressure that we moms put on ourselves. Thanks to social media, we tend to see everyone’s highlight reels. This becomes even more bothersome when you feel like your life is one long blooper reel.

Consider Allyson’s thoughts after she had a meltdown after the frustrating non-dinner on her moms’ night out:

Was that a moment? Did she just have a “moment” in front of everyone in the restaurant? She’d come to fix that problem. To fix herself, and what had happened? Instead, she’d just made a big mess. Now there would be no dinner. Now there would be no conversation. Now there would be no unplugging. Allyson’s breaths came short, fast. And this . . . this was worse than mascara on her eye. It was worse than her meltdown in front of the newlyweds. She’d lost control in front of her friends. She was getting worse, not better. How could she return home worse than she started? Sean would be so disappointed, and then who knew what tomorrow would bring? Yet another failure to heap upon all the other ones.

Poor Allyson. She felt so frustrated and guilty over the failed dinner that she was unable to laugh it off, or casually come up with a “plan b”. She put all kinds of pressure on herself to come up with the “perfect” moms’ night out. When there is a kink in the plan, we as moms need to be able to seamlessly switch gears. There is a sort of fearlessness that needs to come with motherhood.

Last year we had the perfect birthday party planned for the twins. We put a deposit down on a party at the gymnastics studio. I had cute cupcakes ordered. I bought a car full of balloons. When we arrived at the gym to set up. . .the building was locked. Our reservation was never fully noted. I had to think fast. So, a few phone calls later to parents, and we moved the party  a few miles north to our church. It was not what I envisioned. It was not what I had planned. Inside I was seething with frustration. But I HAD to be nimble. My little girls were only going to turn four once, and I had a dozen preschoolers to entertain.

It ended up being a great birthday. The girls had fun, their guests had fun, and we actually saved quite a bit of money!

I could have had a meltdown right there in that icy parking lot. (I totally wanted to!) But that was not going to solve anything. I could have given in to embarrassment–because yes, it was totally embarrassing to have to call all of those parents to give them a last minute change of plan. I took a deep breath and did what I needed to do for the happiness of my daughters.

So, what about you? What has hit home for you as you have been reading this book? Have you had a meltdown like Allyson’s? What situations have you had to come up with a “plan b” on the fly? Share in the comments and join the conversation!