A christmas gift guide with more than just candles and scented lotions

I tend to not like buying gifts unless I think they are cool. I literally find it pointless to give a gift unless it is something someone would truly enjoy. Giving something just to give something isn't my style. But sometimes it is hard to come up with the perfect gift that just screams that person's name. The next best thing? Something unique or practical. Here are some ideas to get you started. 

A Stendig calendar for the hipster in your life. 
Or a modern picture calendar for the grandparent in your life. 

Or this shirt for the adventurer in your life. 

A cool pour over for the coffee snob in your life. 
Or just a bag of coffee from your local coffee roaster for the person that likes to support small and local. 

A scratch map for the world traveler in your life.
Or a national parks poster. It's a fun piece for anyone's wall.

An inspirational book for anyone in your life that needs to take a moment to breathe.
Or an easy to make photo book for just about anyone, though I think moms and grandparents love them the most. 

Handmade body frosting for the woman in your life...I know I said no scented lotions, but this stuff is amazing. 
All natural face wash for the crunchy lady in your life. 

A house plant for the introvert in your life...because we totally dig house plants over people. #itsthetruth
Or a fake house plant for the person that can't keep the real ones alive. 

A bead subscription to your favorite local bread maker for the foodie in your life. 
Or perhaps just a few bars of chocolate, because who doesn't like chocolate?!

And for those that do like their house smelling good, this room spray is just so good. 

So, do you have any gift ideas you would like to share? I am always looking for something new and unique to give and would love to hear. 

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Isla's Thanksgiving Performance

Isla had her thanksgiving performance at school this past week. It is something only the kindergartners do. And it is the type of thing I totally eat up. They sang a few song, with hand motions of course. Isla was quite animated with it, specially the fat turkey part. She was also on the end, so literally turned and did her performance directly toward us the whole time. At one point, she also tried forcing the boy next to her to participate in the hand motions because he was just standing there...haha! It was a really cute little performance and she was totally jazzed about it.

^^ That moment when you see your mom and dad in the crowd...not that we were that hard to miss, with an uncooperative toddler in tow. 

^^ Performing just for us

^^ The fat turkey line

^^ One of her two new signature picture poses. The other one is a curtsey in which she does not look at the camera while doing it. 

^^ Isla and her buddy Pierson in what may be my favorite picture ever. Callum loves him just as much as Isla does. 

You guys, I seriously love kindergarten. It is such a sweet age. Also, there is a camaraderie among both the kids and the parents at this age. I don't know if it's the kindergarten only playground or what, but I really like it. All the kids play. The parents are more friendly, wanting to do play dates and there is even a once a week park date for the whole class after school. And it's not just Isla's class because it was the same way when Connor was in kindergarten. Maybe it's the age? Or that everyone isn't jaded with school yet? Or that it's half days? Who really knows, but I do know that I like it. 

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The 5th Annual Christmas Card Challenge

By this point, it should be well known among folks that I LOVE Christmas cards. Well, really just any holiday cards. Because even the new year's card we got at almost the end of January a couple years ago put a smile on my face! I love sending and receiving cards. I love displaying cards and notes from friends and family near and far. I love hearing how people are doing and watching their families grow and expand. This is the reason I started my Christmas card challenge. Well that and to add a little more fun into the season.

The categories still remain the same:

    * first card to arrive
    * best handwritten note
    * best photo(s)
    * best update
    * best overall

The first card to arrive category is still open for the taking folks. The last two years, it actually went to the same person. But as of now, it's an open spot for the taking!

Still in the spirit of supporting my hubby (and supporting a local small business!), I will be giving out a bag of Bean Counter Coffee Roasters coffee to the winner. How it works is, after Christmas, I will choose a winner from each category, then use a random number generator to pick the winner.

If you want to join in the fun, but don't have my address, feel free to email me at jgrimbleby(at)gmail.com and I will tell you where to send it. And if you are looking for some inspiration, here are the winners in years past - 201620152014 and 2013. I will say, I still love the trend of doing little updates of each kid on the back of the card. Witty updates are also my jam. As are funny pictures and outtakes. So now you have an inside scoop. 

Now get out there and work on your cards! Black friday weekend into cyber Monday is always a great time to score amazing deals on cards and is usually when I order them every year because you can find them so cheap. 

I can't wait to start hanging your cards in my house! 

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Connor's birthday party

We had Connor's birthday party on his birthday at Rockin Jump. It was his choice. And I have to admit, walking away from the mess made me feel like it was a good choice! It really was a good party and a good group of kids and Connor said it was the best night of his life, so I would call that a huge win. We practically had the place to ourselves. No joke, there were only three other people there and they were only there for part of the party. It made it perfect for the kids to be able to run and do what they wanted. It also made it perfect that we could let Callum jump without really having to supervise him (I mean right on the trampolines with him, obviously we were standing close watching), since it was so empty. 

After an hour of jumping and playing, we headed to the party room. Everyone ate pizza, then finished off with cupcakes. Just like myself, Connor doesn't exactly like being sung happy birthday to, but he handled it like a champ. When it came time to presents, all the kids were literally huddled around Connor. Like huddled so tight the parents couldn't even watch. It was the year of the nerf gun and Connor got six. He was thrilled and proceeded to test them all out in our backyard the next day. 

After presents, it was time to pack up and head home. Of course, by this time, it was bath time for all three of my sweaty tired children! It was a really good time celebrating Connor. 

^^ His party doing a dodgeball game together

^^ All the kids from the party. Notice Callum over on the side. He couldn't be bothered to stop jumping for a photo! 

And just like that, the boy who made me a mom is eight. He was celebrated at school with doughnuts on his birthday and his party was that evening. So his birthday was definitely one jam packed with celebration.

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Busy, busy, busy

I remember a time, not so long ago, when I had two toddlers and I truly thought life was busy. And it was. There was the constant clean up of toys and food that was thrown. There was the endless book reading. And the laundry. So much laundry. Then there were the trips to the store for essentials, like diapers and wine ;) Walks to the park. Messes to be picked up and more. 

I remember in the thick of it all, a much more seasoned mom saying "You think you are busy now, just wait until they are in school!" After the feeling of wanting to throat punch her subsided, I am sure I made some sarcastic comment like, "at least you get to sleep through the night" and moved on.  Fast forward a few years and now I have two kids in school. All the sudden, I have had my ah-ha moment. Except, I was stupid. I decided to have a toddler AT THE SAME TIME as kids in school. Talk about really piling it on. 

Here's the thing about school. First there are all the drop offs and pick ups. Having one half day and one all day sure keeps life interesting. Then throw in all those minimum days just to throw you for a loop. Add on the "family projects"...seriously, how many family project togetherness activities do you want me to do teachers?!? Do you really think we are having a family bonding sesh around the table while working on the project? Nope. It usually involves me "helping" (i.e. trying to make sure the project doesn't get ruined by said child's genius project ideas) the person assigned the project while using a leg to keep away a toddler who is trying to grab at the project, all the while the other older child who isn't involved gives us their opinion about the project. Talk about bringing a family together! Then there's the normal day to day homework. And the reading logs. Let us not forget the reading logs. And let's throw in a few school activities to keep it fun. Sure I can bring something for the upcoming class party. And I would love to help with the Christmas craft. School feels like it consumes so much that the only time I really have to get anything done is while both kids are in school. 

That gives me exactly three hours each day to get stuff done. Now, I work an entire morning a week in the kids classrooms, so I only have four mornings to do all the things. Things like grocery shopping and appointment making. Cleaning the house and doing the laundry. And maybe I should try to see a friend every once in a while so I don't become a recluse! Let us not forget, all this happens with a toddler in tow.  

Don't you worry, I love this life of mine. I love these crazy kids of mine. I just never realized how all encompassing and life changing school is not just on a child, but on the whole family. 

And to think you wondered why I don't blog as often as I used to! 

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Connor {8 years}

The night before Connor turned eight, I spent a bunch of time going through old pictures of him to make a photo collage. I had so much fun walking down memory lane. Moments that seem like they happened yesterday, but also feel like a lifetime ago. I really do love how pictures can take me immediately back to that moment. Then Connor got in on the action and his little comments were cracking me up. Him remembering special moments or saying how cute he was as a little kid or requesting for me to find pictures from certain times. I really enjoyed laying in his bed with him doing that. It was a really great way to spend his last night as a seven year old. 

Connor is such a special kid. He can seem so grown up at times, yet is still so tender toward me. He still lets me lay in bed with him and talk. He asks for me to go out on the playground with him at recess when I volunteer in his class. He will hold my hand on the way home from school. I hope we are always able to maintain and open and close relationship. 

Connor is still very much a first born personality. He is a natural leader and tends to do well around adults. He is a rule follower through and through, though does an excellent job pushing his sister's buttons all the time. He loves reading. In fact, that is probably an understatement. He literally reads for hours each day. He loves it that much. His current favorites are the diary of a wimpy kid series and the captain underpants series. He also really enjoyed the jake drake series and books by Roald Dahl. Him and I are still reading through the Harry Potter series together, but that's a him and I thing, so kind of separate from anything else. 

Connor has a very vivid and alive imagination and can often be found drawing complicated things and making up story lines to go with them. He loves playing board games. He isn't picky, almost any will do. He loves playing with friends. He can often be found awake literally hours past his bedtime...poor guy has always struggled going to sleep at night! And he is generally the first kid up in the morning too. 

Connor is quite the picky eater, though has really branched out lately. I laugh about him being picky because he literally will not eat meat, yet he loves shrimp. He would drink gatorade all the time if I let him. His favorite breakfast is currently eggs over medium. The yolks have to be runny or he won't eat them. He also loves egg nog and ramen noodle soup. Oh, and let us not forget munchies and cheetos. He may be picky, but sure loves his junk food! Actually, he will eat pretty much any fruit. He's just not a fan of veggies or meat. 

Here's Connor's answers to the same questions I've asked him for the past several years:

What's your full name? Connor Thomas Booth Grimbleby
How old are you? 8
How tall are you? 4 1/2 feet
What color are your eyes? Blue
What color is your hair? Brown 

What is your favorite...
    color - red
    food - ramen noodles and mac & cheese
    drink - root beer, orange crush and dr pepper (this made me laugh. I know he has had root beer before, but I never
              knew he had had the other drinks before, so who knows!)
    ice cream - cherry sherbert 
    toy - bey blades (he just got them at his birthday party)
    book - Captain Underpants
    song - I don't have a favorite song
    tv show - I don't really watch tv (hahahahah!)
    movie - Cars 2 (he swore he hated these movies up until a week ago!)
    thing to do - play 
    game - monopoly
    sport - soccer
    animal - allosaurus

Who is your best friend? Nixon
What is your favorite thing about yourself? That I'm the oldest one in my family 

Three things that make you special:
    1. I'm the oldest one in my family
    2. I have a lot of friends
    3. I know how to play chess

I asked if he wanted to add anything and he said he wanted to add that his favorite app is super mario cart run. And I would like to add that I found out he was telling everyone proudly on his birthday that he was born in Scotland. That made me smile. I have often wondered what he would think about that the older he gets and it was fun to find out from some of the adults at his school that he was telling all them...which of course led to questions of why we lived there and such. 

This past eight years has been quite the journey. This boy of mine has stretched me more than I knew I could stretch. He has pushed my patience. He has made me love more than I knew possible. And he has made me swell with joy and pride more than I knew I could. That's eight years down and a lifetime left to go. 

In case you want to take a walk down memory lane with Connor, here are his updates from years past - 7 years6 years5 years4 years3 years2 years1 year and 6 months.

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Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

We went to the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose on Friday. It was rated one of the top children's museums in the country. I have to say, given the amount of children's museums I have been in all over the country, I have to disagree. Though the kids had a lot of fun, never have I been to a more crowded and chaotic children's museum. There seemed to be no limit to the amount of people anywhere. They had two play areas for under 4 that weren't regulated, so were crammed and had children of all ages playing in them, which I was super disappointed in...especially since the Boston children's museum had an amazingly large young children's area that was monitored and at max capacity, had very few children in it. 

The water play area was crazy. Like literally crazy. I didn't realize that my kids would leave soaking. There were actually kids playing it in wearing bathing suits. Apparently those parents knew. But it made a fun exhibit not so fun when you are soaking wet on a cold day. Well, Callum didn't much care about being soaked, but Isla did. And this was an indoor exhibit, not a splash pad or anything. 

There was a diy face painting area and that was fun to watch Isla do. She was super into it and it was really cute. Unfortunately both the dinosaur exhibit and the food market had too few toys for kids to play with compared to the number of kids. For instance, there was a huge dinosaur area to play in, think 12 feet long. There were four, I repeat FOUR, dinosaurs out for the kids to play with. The market and kitchen areas had almost no play food. Huge disappointment. 

Thankfully the visiting exhibit, which was about germs and medicine was a huge hit with the kids. It was in a sort of hidden room, so was way less crowded than the rest of the museum and allowed the kids to actually get to play with the stuff. There was also a little bubble area that was a big hit with my kids. 

The coolest part was this huge outdoor area they had. Unfortunately it rained for most the time we were there. After the rain mostly stopped, we took the kids outside to play. They had a grand ole time. There were numerous treehouse type play structures and an entire area to play in the rocks. Needless to say, after getting soaked inside and playing in the rocks outside, Callum went home in only a diaper. The outdoor play area was definitely the highlight of the museum. 

We always enjoy getting out and trying new things with the kids. So, it was a fun adventure going to the Children's Discovery Museum. But, next time I would stick with the much closer and much cheaper Stockton Children's Museum. 

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My Little Lion

Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble
- Mufasa (The Lion King)

Maybe someone should explain that to Callum. I am pretty sure toddlers and seeking out trouble go hand in hand. Especially for this particularly daredevil little guy that does everything with a smile. I caught him on top of our kitchen counter yesterday. Apparently the tops of tables are no longer good enough for the kid who isn't even yet two! People comment all the time about how he is so keen on getting in and rough housing with older kids. On the one hand, it leaves me on the edge of my seat, but on the other, I am proud of the kid for taking life by the horns and just going for it. 

On a completely different subject, can we discuss Callum's coat? I had been eyeing this brand for years. I've always been too cheap to pull the trigger. I mean, after all, I am the mom that buys almost all their wardrobes (and mine!) from thrift stores. But, last year, the brand was clearancing out old styles and samples and I decided to go for it. Let me just say, after waiting a year to slip this beauty on Callum, it DID NOT disappoint. I mean, just look at it! It even has a freaking tail! I always act like I don't get frivolous, over the top purchases for kid because they grow out of things so fast or will ruin them. But honestly, seeing this adorable boy in this adorable coat, I am a bit of a changed woman...or at least I am extremely happy I scored this frivolous purchase that makes me oh so happy at 50% off. 

And, just as a warning, be prepared to see a lot more of this lion coat. Because, you know it is just too cute to be hanging in a closet all the time! 

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You got all that from feet?!

There's something about my kids feet that always gives me perspective. I take pictures of their feet all the time. The shoes they wear say something about the stage they are in, about their personality and the season of life we are in. The size and where their feet land, or don't land, also tell a tale of where they are at in this journey of childhood. I often find myself pausing to see how close to the floor my kids feet come when they sit in different chairs, knowing in far too soon, their feet will be touching. I am constantly reminded how childhood goes by in a flash. Sure, my own childhood didn't necessarily feel that way, but watching friends kids become teens and adults, it just weirds me out. Then knowing that in a flash my own kids will be there. I want them to enjoy this time now to the fullest. They will never have the ease of no responsibility again. They will never again have the joy of eating what they want without abandon or recklessly spending all their birthday money on something pointless. So, as they do it now, I hope they remember. I hope they come out of this childhood of their with magical memories, just like I have from mine. 

Sure, I can remember the awkward times, feeling like an outcast at school or fighting like cats and dogs with my brothers...I remember packing up to move in with my aunt a time or two when I was just over life with my brothers! But I choose to focus on the magical moments. How my dad always was willing to sit in the backyard so we could swim, or how he would play hide and go seek in the dark with us when my mom wasn't home. Or how my mom turned our home into something truly magical at Christmas and I always loved being greeted with that cinnamony smell when I came home from school. There was also the riding of plastic trays down the slides at Mcdonald's, which, oddly enough, the workers always seemed to get angry about. Or my brother and I being sure to grab each other's report cards from the mail before my mom could get them. 

Growing up, figuring our who we are and our place in the world is such a complex process. It's one I hope my children feel they get to do in a safe home, full of love. In a home where they feel safe to chase their dreams, even if those dreams seem crazy. In a home where failure is allowed because it means you tried. In a home where love and joy not only abound, but are a given, and give them the confidence to follow their crazy dreams. 

See, I told you you would be shocked that I got all that just from looking at some feet! 

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The Lowdown on Halloween

Instead of dragging out halloween into a million separate posts, I am going to bust it all out in one. But, let's be honest about something, the day's festivities for halloween are starting to rival christmas. It's kind of crazy in that matter. 

The kids elementary school is the only one left in our area that still does a halloween parade. So, all the parents come and all the kids parade around. Then the choir sings...I may or may not have ducked out at this point, given I had a toddler that wasn't super into just chilling in his stroller with me. Both kids also had halloween parties that morning at school as well. But given that younger siblings aren't allowed in the classroom, I skipped the parties. At school, Connor was a ninja and Isla was a witch, which she was all day long. And, surprisingly, both kids acknowledged me during their parade. This is a big deal for Connor! He usually ignores me at things like this. 

^^ Do you see that midair leap?!

In the evening, we did some early trick or treating in our neighborhood before handing out candy at our house. The boys wore matching astronaut costumes and Isla was still a witch. Our neighborhood gets super into halloween. We get hundreds and hundreds of trick or treaters. One street over is actually blocked off to traffic even. Many houses decorate like crazy...we had some spider webbing and a big spider, so we are legit too ;)

Callum wasn't super into the trick or treating. He just wanted to run around. He didn't even care about the candy. The other two, on the other hand, they really cared about the candy. They would literally rifle through people's candy bowls in search of the perfect piece of candy. Yep, we have "those" kids. There may have even been some fighting over a piece of candy right at someone's door one of the times...you know, just sharing in the spirit of honesty! 

Though the kids liked trick or treating, they really wanted to get home and pass out candy. Connor actually changed into a third costume to pass out candy, but I didn't get a picture because it was already dark out. But he wanted to look spooky and scare people. The kids were super hyped and pumped about passing out candy. It actually didn't last super long because they claimed one of their friend's won the jackpot and filled his candy basket with all our candy. They wanted more candy to pass out, but I decided to call it a night and let them still go to bed at the normal time. 

And just like that, halloween 2017 was over. 

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