New Year’s Eve Fun Traditions

Sometimes I look at my kids and think to myself, “What am I supposed to do with these little ones to entertain them?” I always want fun traditions around holidays and I put pressure on myself to make sure I do so. New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays that I want to start some family traditions but haven’t quite yet. It doesn’t have to be jam packed, but having something “to do” sounds fun. I want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember the things we did each year repetitively. I decided to do some research on what other people do for the holiday and this list is comprised of some of the things I plan on incorporating into our own family traditions. Feel free to comment below with some of your own family New Year’s Eve traditions.

  • Interview your kids and ask about their favorite things. Videotape it too!
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Campout in your own living room as a family. Put up a tent!
  • Play minute to win it games.
  • Have a gift or bag to open every hour until midnight. Instead of a toy inside, try putting a fun question everyone has to answer.
  • Watch home movies from the year. A great way to remember all the fun stuff you did!
  • Pop a balloon every hour. In every balloon have a silly activity that everyone has to do together.
  • Make New Year’s Resolutions together and share them!
  • Have a dance party.
  • Do a photo booth! Great way to remember how your kids change every year.
  • Let your kids invite their friends over to make treats together.
  • Have everyone write a letter to themselves about what you hope to happen this year. Open it on new year’s eve next year.
  • Dress up in fancy clothes, or have masquerade masks just for fun.
  • Do a family time capsule to open the next year.
  • Make fancy non-alcoholic drinks for the kids in special glasses.
  • Have an iron chef contest.
  • Do a craft. Make your own ball to drop, party hats or noise makers!
  • Watch the ball drop in another time zone.
  • Count your blessings! Make a list of things that happened that year that were blessings in your lives. Put them in a journal or album to look back on.
  • Eat some black-eyed peas. They bring good luck!
  • Talk about new years traditions from around the world, or from your own ancestors.

 

The ABSOLUTE BEST Sugar Cookie Recipe!

Finding the best sugar cookie recipe can be quite the challenge. I find that the cookie is either too doughy, tastes too much like flour, the kids won’t eat them, or you have to refrigerate them so long and the dough comes out rock hard. I found a recipe ( I wish I could claim it as my own) that is FANTASTIC and I had to share it with all of you because it is just that good.

it comes together quickly.

it does not need to be chilled.

it can be doubled easily.

it holds its shape with very little expanding when baked.

The recipe I am giving you makes a large batch of dough because I like to bake a lot of cookies. Also I like to roll and cut my cookies fairly thick…to hold a lot of frosting. Incorporating the last cup of flour may make you nervous. It will be dry and look crumbly. Turn out the dough and work with wet hands and/or more flour until the dough is smooth and ready to roll.

Most asked Q and A about this recipe:

THE DOUGH IS STICKY AND/OR CRUMBLY. WHAT CAN I DO?

  • The final dough really comes together and has a texture close to Play-Doh. Wet your hands if you need to. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Don’t be afraid to use more flour and incorporate it in while you are “kneading” it into a smooth ball.
  • Forget everything you know about sugar cookie dough. Don’t be afraid of sprinkling more flour as you roll it out. Use the scraps! Mix them back into the unused dough and keep going.

CAN I CHILL THE DOUGH? I WANT TO CHILL THE DOUGH. ACTUALLY I NEED TO MAKE THIS 3 DAYS IN ADVANCE, IS THAT OKAY?

  • If you need to make the dough in advance you can chill it. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Bring the dough to room temperature before rolling and cutting. You may need to use more flour on the countertop.

THE COOKIES LOOK UNDER-BAKED. CAN I BAKE THEM LONGER?

  • I almost always suggest pulling out these cookies and the 8-9 minute mark. They will continue baking on the cookie sheet for a few minutes while they cool and set. After cooling for about 5 minutes I use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.

NOTES:

  • You can use salted butter (just out the 1/2 teaspoon salt). In the past I’ve omitted the salt and the recipe is fine. It is more bland but these cookies are made for frosting.
  • If you must chill the dough just leave it on the counter top for 10 minutes before rolling or work the dough with your hands for a few minutes.
  • You can omit the almond extract if you do not have it available, however the taste is really fantastic with the hint of almond.
  • Keep in mind that the recipe yield will vary according to how thick you roll your cookies and how large or small your cutters are.
  • Bake for 6 minutes to test. They should be soft. Leave them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cool completely. If you reach 7-8 minutes and the edges turn brown your cookie will be crisper.

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

YIELD: 3 dozen cookies

PREP TIME: 30 minutes

COOK TIME: 6-8 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 38 minutes

Soft cut out sugar cookie recipe that keeps its shape and dough does not need to be chilled before baking- perfect edges every time!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In the bowl of your mixer cream butter and sugar until smooth, at least 3 minutes
  3. Beat in extracts and egg.
  4. In a separate bowl combine baking powder and salt  with flour and add a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer turn out the dough onto a countertop surface. Wet your hands and finish off kneading the dough by hand.
  5. DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH. Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8).
  6. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

 

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Christmas Traditions Worth Starting

I LOVE traditions…especially around the holidays! Our family has started some pretty neat traditions that I think are worth sharing. From spending a day baking Christmas cookies to packing the kids in the car and driving around looking at Christmas lights, we have started some traditions that I simply cannot go a season without.

  1. Toledo Zoo Lights Before Christmas (One of our FAVORITE family traditions! The Toledo Zoo puts on quite the show and is enjoyed by everyone big and small) https://www.toledozoo.org/lights
  2. Tam-O-Shanter’s Children’s Wonderland (My daughters LOVE the train ride, the old and new displays, pictures with Santa and the endless crafts you can make). http://www.playsylvania.com/childrens-wonderland/
  3. Levis Commons Santa House (The BEST Santa experience in the Toledo, Ohio area. He not only has Mrs. Claus with him, but he spends so much time with each little one and one family enters the house/cottage at a time to create an intimate experience). https://www.shopleviscommons.com/event/visit-with-santa-claus/2145497897
  4. Listening to Christmas music and putting the Christmas tree up (We listen to 101.5 and put the tree up…It is GREAT!)
  5. Getting into our winter jammies and driving around town looking at Christmas lights (You can dress this experience up with snacks and hot cocoa)
  6. Bass Pro Santa Workshop (Another GREAT experience where you can see Santa for FREE, play games, write a letter to the big man in red, and make and take a craft home). http://www.basspro.com/shop/en/santas-wonderland
  7. Christmas service at church (CedarCreek Church offers an experience like no other…it is a beautiful production). https://cedarcreek.tv/christmas/
  8. Baking Christmas cookies (See the following recipes from Food Network:) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/all-star-holiday-cookie-recipes

I would LOVE to hear your family traditions in the comments below!

 

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The Facts On Becoming Babywise

I know for me and my household, getting the baby to sleep through the night as early as possible is KEY to everyone being happy and content on a daily basis. That being said, I have incorporated the book On Becoming Babywise into my parenting style. For the first 2 kiddos, it worked like a charm and they were both sleeping through the night no later than 9 weeks. You heard me right…no later than 9 weeks!!! It was FANTASTIC! It takes work and dedication but by following the “rules” laid out for you, you too can have a sleeping baby in no time. With my third, we are starting the implementation process this week and I plan on documenting how it goes throughout the sleeping journey.

Sometimes when we start something new, it’s difficult to know where exactly to begin and what exactly to expect. After reading On Becoming Babywise, my husband and I knew we wanted to sleep-train using Babywise, but translating written content into real life application involves a learning curve. I wanted to give you a run-down of what this process looks like.

1. Mentally prepare before the baby is born.

As a basic first step, read On Becoming Babywise as a couple and then talk about it together. When both parents are on board, everything runs more smoothly. Here are a few things I try to remind myself, when sleep-training…

  • Babies will likely start sleeping longer stretches around 3-4 months.
  • Troubleshooting at various points throughout the process is normal!
  • Stay committed! You will see results!
  • It is always okay to make modifications!
  • Set the foundation! It will have positive lasting effects in the future months and years to come!

2. Start the basics at birth.

If you need to get acclimated for a few weeks before starting the basics that is 100% okay. Don’t stress! I was a nervous, anxious wreck that I wasn’t doing everything right from the beginning. It was a total waste of energy. The first few weeks won’t make or break the future. Start as soon as you mentally feel ready.

Set a morning wake up time and a bedtime. We want to set the baby’s internal clock to encourage consistent night time sleep. It’s most common to see a 7 am wake time and a 7 pm bedtime. In a newborn, you may have a slightly later bedtime for a short while to help fit in enough feedings. After a few months, bedtime can usually be moved to an earlier time.

Create a basic routine for your day. Using the wake, eat, sleep cycle, fill in your approximate times for feedings and naps. In the beginning we are all likely on an approximate 2.5 hour to 3 hour schedule. If you set a wake time and a bedtime, it’s easy to fill in the middle.

Start a pre-sleep ritual. A 5 minute pre-nap routine and a 30 minute before-bedtime routine is simple, practical and easy to use. A pre-nap ritual could include swaddling the baby, sitting for a bit, singing a short song, and saying your sleepy words (e.g. I love you. I hope you have a good sleep, and I will see you when you wake up). A before-bedtime routine could include a bath, soft music, reading a short story, nursing the baby, and saying your sleepy words. Do what works for you.

Don’t let naps get too long. Sleeping too long of a stretch during the day can rob nighttime sleep. Limit naps to approximately 2 hours during the day. If the baby sleeps past the two hour mark, it is absolutely okay to wake a sleeping baby. If you feel the baby truly needs longer naps, feel free to make adjustments and increase the nap limit to 2.5 hours.

Swaddle. From birth to about age four to five months, a baby possesses the startle reflex, in which the baby actually feels as if he is falling. The sensation of falling causes jerking movements, and the baby will inadvertently wake up. Keeping a tight swaddle prevents babies from startling awake, helping the baby sleep both better and longer.

Create a good sleep environment. Dimming the room by closing the blinds or curtains is great a great place to start. Using a small fan or white noise machine in the room is also helpful if your baby struggles to sleep through noise.

Encourage full feedings. When the baby eats a full meal, it will be easier to make it to the next feeding time. It is also easier for the baby to complete a full nap without waking early due to hunger.

Dreamfeed. Before going to bed, we can pick the baby up without really waking him and give an additional feeding. The dream feed helps prevent the baby from waking up shortly after we moms go to sleep.

3. Start laying the baby down awake…

When you lay the baby down awake, there will likely be some crying involved. Crying should be in no way extreme or long in duration. If your baby is struggling to fall asleep on his own, reassurance and support from mom or dad is really important. Allowing your baby to become very drowsy, yet slightly awake can really help with this process. If your baby is fussing for a long time, it can frequently be attributed to overtired or over-stimulation but there are many other disruptions that may be the culprit.

It is common for Babywise parents to start somewhere in the birth to 2 month window. It isn’t necessary to choose before the baby is born; it’s okay to get to know the baby and start when you instinctively think it is best. We started at age 3.5 weeks.

Lay the baby down for a nap after meeting all of the baby’s needs (fed, changed, etc) and the baby has been awake for a bit and the baby is showing sleepy cues (i.e. a yawn, a fuss, or an eye rub). When my daughter was getting close to a nap, I would keep stimulation to a minimum. Sometimes I would just walk her around the house for a bit and hum softly.

Then I would take her to her room, close the curtains, place her in her sleep sack or swaddle, turn on the white noise, and hold her for a few minutes. Next, I would say her Sleepy Words…something like ‘I love you. I hope you have a good sleep. I’ll see you when you wake up.’ Then we would pray.

And finally, I would lay her down. On average, she would fuss from 0-10 minutes. Of course, some days she didn’t fuss at all and some days she fussed for longer. We stayed very, very consistent. And by 3 months there was no fussing before naps or bedtime at all, unless something was off such as travel or overtired or overstimulated.

You can also try ‘shush-pat’: I originally tried ‘Shush-pat’ method from the Baby Whisperer book. After preparing the baby for sleep, you can make a gentle shushing sound and pat your baby’s back while you are holding him. Then lay your baby down drowsy, but awake and continue shushing and pat his side or chest until he falls asleep. This is a great method to help your baby get used the crib.

4. Consistency is key.

This is so important. I stayed home for a few short weeks once I started to set the foundation and provide my daughter the opportunity to get the hang of it very quickly. This also prevents the baby from falling asleep in your arms or the car when you are out, allowing us to stay on schedule at least until the foundation is set. After the initial two week period, I got a little more adventurous with leaving the house. We can’t stay inside forever, right?!

Beginning to sleep-train using Babywise does involve some work, but the fruits of your labor will undoubtedly pay off. She started sleeping 10+ hours through the night at around two and a half months, which at the time, was a much welcomed change. I hemmed and hawed for a little while about letting go of the night feedings. All babies will regress at some point (i.e. teething, growth spurts, and beyond), and you will be awake during the night feeding the baby once again. In the meantime, it’s okay to give yourself permission to get some much needed rest.

 

 

 

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Living on Little to No Sleep

It is no surprise to people when you tell them that you have a newborn at home and are lacking in the sleep department. It is a given and expected in the early stages of infancy. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to function on little to no sleep. And forget about giving attention to your other kiddos when feeding time happens every 2-3 hours and the lack of sleep has affected your ability to function.

Having a 3 week old has taken me back to the reality of…this is HARD work. Having little to no sleep really does take a toll on your emotions, hormones, attention span, etc. I wanted to share some wisdom to those maybe going through this for the first time…sleep when the baby sleeps! Sounds great but you will feel a tug at your heart to clean the house, get the laundry done, take a shower, etc. when that baby’s eyes slam shut….DON’T! Take that time to re-energize, catch up on your sleep and feel like you can once again conquer the world.

The sleepless stage lasts roughly 8-12 weeks and can really put a strain on things if you don’t acknowledge the issue of sleep deprivation. So…go get some rest and comment below how you make sure to get in enough sleep so that you can be top notch for your littles at home.

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Breastfeeding…It’s What’s for Dinner!

Prior to giving birth to my third daughter, I had made the decision to attempt breast feeding once again. In the past, breastfeeding came very “UN-naturally” to me and by the third month of my first and second daughter’s life, my milk supply had all but diminished. I found breastfeeding frustrating, painful, and difficult. I truly believe my attitude around breastfeeding is what either made my experience a success or a failure. So this time around I have made it my mission to embrace the messy, focus on keeping it simple, and feed this baby like my life depended on it…or die trying.

As I approached the birth of my first daughter back in 2012, I had taken every online Lamaze class, read every “welcoming baby” article, watched every video tutorial on breastfeeding, etc. I WAS PREPARED…HAHA!!! You are NEVER prepared for the unknown and I QUICKLY found that out. What I found to be the best resource was other moms who had “been there done that!” I sought advice, help and of course a shoulder to cry on…because being a mommy is a tough job.

My first two daughters were born with Hypotonia (low muscle tone) and latching to the breast was tricky for them seeing they had very loose and low tone muscles. It affected the way they were able to latch onto me and draw the milk so that I could produce an ample supply. This third baby seems to have gotten the hang of things and her latch has been spot on since day one. It has always been a dream to breastfeed my children and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that feeding your baby right is of utmost importance and the best way to do that is the natural way…breastfeeding. For some, this task is easy and comes naturally, paving the way to feeding success. For others, the task is painful and frustrating, causing many to “quit” early and resort to formula. I have found that support is the key to sticking with it and becoming successful when things don’t come “naturally.”

Some sites that were helpful to me (and supportive) when I was trying to figure the whole breastfeeding thing out were the following. Feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite lactation site.

  1. https://www.lansinoh.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiAx57RBRBkEiwA8yZdUA-m3NGab7dCwh8btmp4q8c__Sl46g-MvP5ns0NGohFoOze3h4f0kBoCBc4QAvD_BwE
  2. https://www.thebump.com/a/breastfeeding-tips
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breast-feeding/art-20047138
  4. https://familydoctor.org/breastfeeding-hints-to-help-you-get-off-to-a-good-start/