Easy Last Minute Advent Idea: Holiday Jokes and Puns

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We have a beautiful advent calendar that was handmade for us by my sweet and talented step mom or Meme as my kids call her. It’s one of my favorite Christmas decorations but sometimes the stress to fill it with Pinterest worthy goodies / activities / treats / toys can be overwhelming. But why make things hard for ourselves?

Because my Super Mom Skill is delegating like a boss, I’m using the powers of Google and my laser printer and taking advantage of some clever bloggers who came before me. I decided on a theme – basically dad jokes holiday style – and then told Google about it and Google said, “Of course it exists already!” There are a lot of choices but these four were my favorites:

Four Free Printables for Advent / Holiday Jokes

Lindsay at Artsy Fartsy Mama whose adorable holiday themed jokes printables are so freaking adorable! Lindsay also shared 24 non-candy Advent ideas recently if you are looking for more great ideas.

Bianca at A Little Delightful shared holiday jokes to fill Christmas crackers a few years ago. They print out nice and small, about the size for a fortune cookie so if space is limited, these are perfect.

Leandrea at Coupons are Great shared some more adorable holiday jokes to tuck into your little ones’ lunch boxes. So even if you aren’t worried about Advent calendars right now, lunch box notes are another fun way to use these jokes!

MJ and Modern Parents Messy Kids has a whole advent calendar printable using, you guessed it, holiday jokes and puns! Apparently I’m not the first one to come up with this idea. If you don’t already have an Advent calendar and your looking at the calendar right now like OMG – just head straight here and download their printable and you are GOOD TO GO.

Does your family use an Advent calendar?

What are you filling your Advent calendar with?

What are you drinking while you fill it?

Adventish: A Holiday Idea Box

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Sometimes the holidays stress me out. Some years I don’t care about the mayhem and I pinterest my heart out coming up with fun activities and covering the house in glitter and ribbons and twinkle lights then other years I’m like, “What if we didn’t decorate for Christmas at all and we’ll just wait and see if Christmas happens anyway?”

I’m feeling somewhere in the middle this year but with Advent starting on Tuesday, the pressure is on to either get prepared or pretend we forgot Advent was a thing and see if the kids notice (they probably won’t, don’t worry). I have a beautiful advent calendar that my step mom made the kids a few years ago and I love putting it up but have a love / hate relationship with filling it. Coming up with 24 creative ways to say “Yay! Christmas!” can be exhausting or expensive or cavity filled.

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This year I filled our advent calendar with those little stickers that come on the ends of the personalized name tags that charities send you around the holidays when looking for donations. You know, the guilt labels that you end up keeping whether you donate money or not because why would you throw perfectly good address labels away? And the stickers have been piling up for nine years now at least, so I had a pretty hefty collection of them.

I kind of wanted to an advent activity thing, too, and put in fun activities to do each day but that just stressed me out again because what if I don’t end up wanting to do that thing that day – or you know, life happens so I don’t want to put something particular on a certain day only to have that event canceled and the advent calendar turn into a liar because I forget to change it. I worry too much, it’s okay. Also I couldn’t come up with 24 activities. But I had ten activities that are totally repeatable and can mostly be done with minimum or no prep at all and that’s where this strange little idea of mine started.

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To make the box: I grabbed an old tea tin that just ran out of tea that smells all amazing and cinnamony. Then I went to picmonkey.com, my graphic making / photo editing website of choice, and created this cute graphic. I knew my tin was 3 inches by 4 1/2 inches on each side so I went with those dimensions after googling pixel to inch conversions again. DPI continues to confuse me and my graphic is actually like twice as big as necessary, but that’s okay – I threw it in a word document, scaled the image size and then copied and pasted until there were four of them on one page and printed. I cut the graphics and wrapped them around my tin with some scotch tape to hold it all in place. Do I really need to tell you guys how to tape a piece of paper on a tin box? Probably not. Sorry.

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To fill the tin: I decorated some popsicle sticks that I’ve had lying around my office as long as I’ve been a mother. I bought a box with like 1,000 popsicle sticks in it a million moons ago and I think I will have this box until the day I die. I took those charity address label stickers and stuck them on the tops of the sticks to look decorative and wrote activity ideas on the side of the stick. So fancy. (Pro tip: I filled the tin with gift bag tissue paper first because ten tiny popsicle sticks don’t really fill the tin and they looked sad. The tissue made the sticks kinda stand up and look more impressive.)

Here are our activities:

  1. Watch a holiday movie.
  2. Read a book together.
  3. Dance party!
  4. Family Game Night.
  5. Make paper snowflakes.
  6. Drink hot cocoa.
  7. Sing Christmas Carols.
  8. Family Compliment Day – tell every person in your family something you love about them. Enjoy all the feel goods.
  9. Christmas Craft Time
  10. Have a joke telling contest!

Feel free to steal my idea. I know it’s kind of amazing. What activities would you put on your popsicle sticks?

Kindergarten Looks Like: Paper Craft Extreme

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Can we talk about BB’s new craft obsession? Every day she painstakingly cuts out little shapes from bits of paper and then assembles them into pictures, coloring in all the little pieces. This is a self portrait of hers that she gave me recently and it’s just one in an ever growing collection of patchwork pictures.

Is this a common hobby? Because MM – who frequently gets lost in making intricate diagrams and charts – has not inundated me with anything similar. I mean sure he’s done his fair share of cutting and pasting different things together, but never on this level and I can’t recall having done it myself as a kid.

I don’t want to be that braggy parent that we all hate but I’m kind of blown away by this. The level of creativity, concentration and organization needed to do stuff like this? It seems like it wouldn’t be an ordinary hobby for a 5 year old but maybe I’m just underestimating all the five year olds in the world. Maybe we’re all much more brilliant than we give ourselves credit for.

Any other five year old future quilters out there? What has your kid done recently that just blew you away with Momma Pride?

DIY: Making homemade labels for our spice jars.

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We’ve been storing our spices in a couple of cardboard boxes pretty much since the day we moved into our first apartment all those years ago. It started with one box and as our cooking skills grew we added another box – one for baking and one for cooking basically. But the boxes were impossible to organize – you’d take one jar out and the others would fall over or shift which meant alphabetizing them was a lost cause. This resulted in “Why do we have 3 bottles of cinnamon?” or “I know we have rosemary around here somewhere, but I can’t find it.”

After eight years of marriage and owning more cinnamon than we probably know what to do with, I decided it was time to try something else. The thing is – we’ve been looking for the perfect spice rack for years and never found one worth taking up the counter space. I.e. We’re picky. I don’t like those rotatey spice racks and didn’t want to live with the spices they thought we wanted.

We finally settled on 12 of these spice jars from World Market that were $1 each (sold online in packs of 6) along with this metal spice rack for just $10 that can either be hung on a wall or cabinet door or just placed on a counter if you have the room. World Market has a ton of different jar styles by the way. These were by far the plainest they had but that kind of appealed to us. You could also totally just keep your spices in the jars they came in and put them in the rack, but we were loving the idea of uniformity so we splurged on new jars. In the long run, we’re probably going to need another rack and more jars to hold the rest of our spices but this got us started with the spices we seem to use most often.

So we had our jars and a rack and we found a home for it that we could live with – now we just needed to pick twelve spices to move into the rack and label the jars. We were originally thinking of picking out labels in a store but didn’t find any we liked. Then we were going to use a sticker or label maker to make our own and went through the whole mental process of figuring that out, when my husband found this link to a tutorial for making your own labels using a laser printer and packing tape! I was skeptical but it totally worked! Head over to The Proper Pinwheel for further instruction on making the labels.

I designed my labels using PicMonkey which is an awesome online photo editor / graphic designer that is available for free though there are a lot of spiffy extras for people who pay for a Royale Membership (totally worth it, in my opinion). This label took me about five minutes to design. Feel free to steal it as long as you use it for good and not evil:

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Now you just need words. You could add the font for the label right on picmonkey if you want (and they have a lot of beautiful fonts) but I was worried that this would be tedious to then save 12 different images and then compile them all onto one page. In an effort to save time, I saved the logo above and then copied and pasted it 12 times into a LibreDraw file. LibreOffice is basically Microsoft Office but open source (i.e. free). I tried doing this in a word document and it was really difficult to get the text to line up where I wanted it. Helpful Hubby recommended the Draw program which let me make text boxes that I then positioned over each label.

Which method would have been faster in the end? I’m not sure. Either way, I finished the whole process in under and hour, printed the page and then we used the methods shared at The Proper Pinwheel to turn the laser printed page and packing tape into beautiful, homemade labels for our new spice jars.

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We are both really thrilled with the end result. The labels are so special to us because we designed them ourselves, making them truly unique and we love that if we want to use a bottle for a different spice, the label is just packing tape so it should be easy to remove (and it’s pretty water proof, too!). And having the spices right where we want them and finally, finally alphabetized is making it so much nicer to cook.

Organization never tasted so good!

 

Father’s Day Weekend: Photo wrap up.

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This weekend we celebrated Fathers Day with our favorite handsome engineer. We started the weekend with an assortment of handmade cards and pictures from the kids like this portrait of Dan drawn by MM and a few goodies from ThinkGeek.com.

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Saturday we all went to Devils Lake State Park with some friends. We had a picnic lunch, played at the beach and Dan and his bestie (and bestie’s wife) even went rock climbing! I am not ashamed to say that I was grateful linger at the beach with the kids while they went on that adventure!

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Sunday was spent in Green Bay with more good friends. We went to Bay Beach Amusement Park again and rode trains, planes and merry go rounds. The weather was windy and threatened to rain all morning until eventually it did rain – but we managed to run to the van before it started and stayed dry.

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BB and I took lots of selfies together on all the rides we went on. She loved the merry go round, train and helicopter ride but we both agreed the ferris wheel was a little too fast. Poor BB got sick on the drive back to our friend’s parent’s house but luckily bounced back quickly. We finished the day with brats, hot dogs, birthday cupcakes for BB’s bestie who is turning 4 in a couple days.

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Meanwhile, the dog had a blast at his favorite doggy hotel. We picked him up this morning and he was freshly bathed, happy and thrilled to see us. MM was in his glory on the ride home as his puppy cuddled in his lap on the whole ride home (mostly because it’s the only way they all fit in the backseat, but still adorable).

How was your weekend?

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?

Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

5 minute fixes: For toy clutter, kids artwork & more!

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Confession: Organizing my kids toys is a soul sucking task that I ignore as long as possible.

Do I like the disaster that they live in most days? Nope, it drives me slowly insane. But sometimes it seems like any solution I attempt to give them to better organize their things is only going to last for a few days at best before they break it, lose it, ignore it or worse. But I keep trying anyway because the alternative is anarchy.

We bought the wooden pantry style organizing cabinets photographed above a few years ago. All the toys the kids like to play with downstairs get corralled into these cabinets – one for each kid – and then we shut the doors and forget about what would happen if you opened the doors. Like everything falling out or me having a stroke. My husband grew up with a similar system and everyone survived – no cute baskets or bins required.

But after several years of this awesome ignoring method of coping, I was absolutely itching to get in there and organize it. The clutter levels were starting to drive me loony and there were a few things just dying for a nice basket to live in or a giant something to store all the loose papers and “treasured” artwork that was piled and jammed into every nook and cranny and no longer seemed to be contained by the cabinets. Nothing was sensibly stored with anything and I had had enough.

So. I went to that place with the giant red hypnotizing bullseye that seems to inherit half my husband’s paycheck every month and tried to focus on the prize, within budgetary reason. I ignored the gorgeous wicker baskets and storage systems with all the doodads and went simple. I bought eight (8) small plastic bins with lids for 80 cents each (score!).

Then I went home and worked some voodoo magic. Now I know I called this a 5 minute project, but the truth is this next part took more like two or three hours. But if your kids aren’t future hoarders it might take you less time and if you just hand them the bins and make them do all the heavy lifting, then it really is only about 5 minutes and eight dollars of your time.

So the boring bit: I went slowly through each cluttered, crazy shelf and organized all the little bits into bins, the bigger bits by type and the paper stuff by either a pile to deal with later or a pile destined for the recycling bin. It took forever, because my four year old insisted on “helping” but the end result was that picture above so I’m calling it worth it until they wreck it again.

Sidenote: There are no before pictures because nobody needs to see that disaster.

Each kid got 4 bins and a new lease on life. I got some sanity. But we weren’t done yet.

Another 5 minute fix: Organizing coloring books & artwork

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Problem # 1 – Even though I practically filled our recycling bin with paper stuff, we still had a veritable mountain of beloved art projects that had no home.

Problem # 2 – The kids coloring books and magazines were threatening to burst out of the three drawer plastic cart that had been holding them and all the stuff that should have been in the drawers ended up getting piled on the whole cart because of the tight quarters (and lazy).

Solution (Easy) – I bought a second one. It was like $13 so not terrible but maybe not the bargain of the century but it was a FAST and SIMPLE solution that solved both problems.

I went through the drawers and divided it up so that each kid has their own cart and each drawer has a purpose. I even Super Geek Momed out and made handy labels for each drawer so the kids (i.e. the four year old) has a reminder of what should be in each drawer. I am 80% certain they will ignore this but at least I tried, right? And – they look adorable.

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How do you corral the clutter?

Puppy Alter Egos: My kids imagine our canine selves.

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One of this week’s writing prompts at Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop was:

5.) If your family were dogs, what breed would each of them be?

I was immediately intrigued by this idea and started thinking about what breeds my kids and husband would be and how I would describe them. And then an even better idea came to me. I decided to ask the kids for their input and rather than look up images online to try and convey their ideas, I had them draw a picture of each of our puppy alter egos so that you can really visualize their answers. The results? Amazing.

BB The Small Soft Quiet Loud Dancing Dog

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BB described her ideal Alter Dog Ego and her brother drew the accompanying picture. This was kind of a cool exercise for them because 1) apparently none of us are very good at drawing dogs and 2) It was cool to see him try to draw her ideas. He gave his sister ballet slippers on all four five puppy feet and a little tutu and colored the dog to her specifications, then drew a tv to play the music that her puppy self would be dancing to.

MM The Super Hero / Space Traveling Black Lab

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MM’s initial description was pretty simple. His dog alter ego would be exactly like our dog except quieter. My dream dog, basically. But once he started drawing, his imagination took flight as he created a Super Dog costume and a space ship for his Dog Self to fly around in. I added more text to go along with his ideas which were just terrific.

Mom the Super Colorful Thirsty Dancing Dogpuppyfamily-mom

By the time I asked them to describe what kind of dog Dan and I would be, the kids were overcome with all the silliness and had a lot of ideas. I quickly became every color under the rainbow, though mostly pink and green under BB’s careful coloring hand. She asked for help drawing the outlines of her dogs and a few details like a music box for my dog self to dance to and was kind enough to draw herself turning the music box on for me.

Daddy the Bird Chaser Who Kinda Looks Like a Catpuppyfamily-dad

In an attempt to draw different types of dogs, my outline of Daddy Dog ended up looking sort of like a cat – the goal was a border collie… And I failed. And clearly have no idea what a border collie looks like. But BB was quite pleased and got to work coloring him in and drawing what I can only assume are birds and butterflies for him to chase. I added some flowers and grass for good measure.

So there you have it – if my family was dogs, we’d be a mixed bunch of super hero, ballerina, bird chasing, dancing quiet loud soft red pink black green canines, most of which never seem to touch the ground. 

What kind of dog would you and your family be?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Waxing philosophical about disposable place mats.

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These two pictures? Perfectly explain the differences between my two kids. Really, they just say everything.

My son, eight years old, is a sweet, thoughtful, intelligent practical kid. He wants to know how things work and likes piecing together the different elements to a puzzle or problem. He is a rule follower and genuinely enjoys making people happy and strives to do the right thing. He colors inside the lines and if he doesn’t have an orange crayon, he’ll diligently attempt to mix red and yellow until he gets the right shade.

My daughter, four years old, is a born rebel. She makes up her own rules and tends to see herself as victorious, regardless of the outcome. She likes to mix things up and create her own stories and adventures and merely pleasing someone isn’t enough of a reason for her to want to do something (unfortunately for me). She ignores the lines entirely and strives to use every crayon in the box all at once.

It continues to delight me to watch them interact with the world in their own ways, neither of which is wrong or right. I so look forward to seeing where their temperaments and personalities will lead them in life.