holiday best [kids!]

Whether it’s a holiday party, church service, nice dinner, or family pictures Holiday Best is so fun to shop for, in my opinion! Here are some of my favorites!

The boys got sent these amazing Lumberjack suits from Opposuits. Their whole site is full of amazing, loud, fun suits for men, women and kids!Opposite I LOVE Pepper Kids,( this black lace dress!) and Zara for unique pieces for girls! Of course Amazon always pull through with some quick ship options, too! Pair it with a rad coat, tights, or over the knee socks (both are in the carousel below this section!) boots, t-strap flats, or even sneakers if the mood is right.

Red Sweater Set // Plaid Dress (two colors!) // Layered Mustard Dress // Mustard Plaid with Pom ties // Retro Dress // This dress comes in 4 perfect colors is $25 and is giving me major Little Women vibes. // Glitter Dot Sweatshirt

More ideas for BOYS and GIRLS below, too!

tried and true gifts for boys

I have done my fair share of gift guides in the past and I finally compiled my family’s musts. Toys that all 3 of my boys have found entertainment in, things that have stood the test of time and been worth the money several times over. You can find BOY MOM MUSTS along with my other Must Lists on Amazon as well if you want to add to cart more easily.

But if you want my reasoning for each item, read below!

Boy Mom Gift Guide

  1. Some of my favorite memories as a mom is seeing the joy on my boys’ faces when they have a little bit of freedom. The wind is in their hair and they’re going wherever their heart desires (within the cul-de-sac of course.) I try to have something age appropriate on hand for each of them that gives them that feeling of freedom and autonomy. Plasma Cars have gotten hours and hours a day of use from all 3 of them! Their neighbor buddies all got them too and would ride and race around all day long.
  2. Cash Register. Playing store is more than that in my opinion. It’s my kids learning to compromise, negotiate, learning value and math, too!
  3. Easel. I am a huge proponent of creative play and artistic expression. I have a whole loft devoted to it and although it makes messes, its the kinds of messes I want!
  4. We have pretty much every kind of “building” material for kids. Magna Tiles are trickier to work with, but I love that they can think in 3D.
  5. I have every type of Lego Brick on here because it’s good for all ages and sometimes my kids are sick of the tiny standard Lego and just want something easier and larger scale. The kits are fun, once. I always get the free play boxes because they go farther. LEGO // DUPLO // MEGA BLOKS.
  6. This electric dirtbike has the same reasoning as #1 but on steroids. It brings my kids so much joy and inspires us to go out in nature where they can ride free! For the record they don’t go very fast and my kids have yet to wreck! Small town win, for sure. Grab a helmet while you’re at it.
  7. Micro Mini Scooter has gotten more hours than even the Plasma Car. All three of my kids ride for hours. Other brands work just fine (like Globber for instance), but Micro seems to be the smoothest and easiest to balance!
  8. Guardian Bike ($20 off with “smallfry”) is the only bike I’ll buy for my kids. They have patented brake technology that keeps them from flipping over the handles. It never lets their front brake go first and it keeps the pressure even through front and back. So they stop faster and more balanced than a regular bike! Watch the video of them braking compared to a standard bike. Super eye opening!
  9. Car Tracks forever, this is Hayes’ #1 most used toy.  The specific tracks are fun to set up once and if you leave it put together even better, but I have yet to see my kids rebuild a set after it gets taken down. The Track Builder kits give them everything they need to creatively build set after set after set. Worth every penny!
  10. This is a new find for my kids but I love that it has the beginnings of programming. Like a mini rolling robot that they control! Sphero Bolt
  11. Paint By Sticker for Kids is a must for any quiet time bag. It’s just complicated enough that it takes all their focus, but not in a frustrating way.
  12. I always have art supplies, paper, glue, string, popsicle sticks, paint, beads, and whatever else I can think of on hand for a day inside. You can give them a prompt – “make me a monster puppet” or “draw a birthday card for the party today.” I put their art on display too so they know its value in our home.
  13. Megabloks (my toddler loves these and everyone else plays with them too!)
  14. Lego Duplo (less frustrating then legos for my boys!)
  15. Not pictured but bath toys are a must for boys. It’s hard enough getting them to actually bathe so make it fun! This set is great and gets the building element involved.

 

Wee Society!

Giving away the entire Wee Society line of books today on my Instagram! Their flawless graphics and quirky content make my heart soar and I can’t wait to gift someone all of these beautiful books!

Linking them all here in case you want to check them out!WEE SOCIETY

WEE HEE HEE (not pictured but its a joke book that is so freaking cute you’ll squeal. Big and beautiful and looks amazing out on the shelf. // ME: A COMPENDIUM FILL IN THE BLANK this journal is something Im gifting both my boys and can’t wait to see what they do with it! // INCOMPLETE BOOK OF AWESOME THINGS a book of words and pictures that toddlers will love! // MATCHING GAME a fun game that you won’t be mad if they leave out! // ADVENTURE JOURNAL (comes in other colors, too!) if you’re going anywhere at all this year this journal will help you keep every memory and even some you didn’t know you wanted to remember– all from your child’s perspective. So clever and darling! // POSTCARDS you could hang these like a banner in a nursery or break them off and send sweet little notes to friends. Either way you use it, its so cute!

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books for tween girls!

I asked on Instagram for your Tween girl’s favorite books to read and promised I’d share the results! SO many good ones I’ve never heard of and ALL have amazing reviews online! Check it out!

One I missed after this post was made were the “I Survived” books (boys LOVE them but there are a few about girls specifically too, not that it matters necessarily.) Also the mystery books by Blue Balliet! All steeped in art history and exciting stories to boot! I love that kids get to learn more about art while reading. Two of my favorite things! The Calder Game, The Wright 3 and Chasing Vermeer were all suggested!

Books for Tween Girls

Fish in a Tree: If you like Wonder by RJ Palacio check this one out! // Rules: I reviewed this one earlier this year and since then it’s won several awards! The story of a 12 year old girl navigating life with her Autistic brother. // “Sisters” or “Smile” Graphic Novels by Raina Telgmeier. This author has several titles with great reviews but these two specifically were suggested! // Paint By Stickers: These books are so so much fun. So great for a quiet time bag, road trips, or budding artists who want something cool to hang on their wall. // Penderwicks Series: This series comes as a box set, or individually! “No more engaging sisters since Little Women!” high praise!! // Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls: Another book I’ve reviewed with 100+ stories about awesome women in history! So well done! // Wolf Hollow: Lost count of how many awards this book has won!! We read it in my adult book club but this story about injustice and bullying will sweep you (I mean her!) away. 😉 // Walk Two Moons: I read this as a kid and love that its still so well-loved! Two stories woven together and a good challenge for a budding reader! //  Rollergirl Graphic Novel – another graphic novel that came highly recommended! // Roald Dahl Collection: This one is a selfish add, because Roald Dahl was one of my childhood favorites that sparked a love of reading in me that propelled the direction of my life forever! There’s no one like Roald Dahl! // Chronicles of Narnia Series: another series that stands the test of time! Deals heavily in symbolism which makes for good conversations! // In college I took a class on Adolescent Lit and these were two of the titles that I felt were actually age appropriate but also challenge and improve reading ability!: Watsons go to Birmingham! // Missing May //

By far the most recommended was basically anything by Kate DiCamillo butThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane specifically had 3000 4+ reviews! Flora and Ulysses was another multiple suggestion by the same author! She wrote Because of Winn-Dixie as well and I didn’t realize she had made such a dent! So many titles and all very highly reviewed!

kate dicamillo

ALL SMALL FRY BOOK REVIEWS here!

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holiday best

Holiday Parties are the most fun to get dressed for IMO! You really just need ONE special piece to make it feel festive. But the best part is, you can layer on festive piece after festive piece and I don’t think anyone would look twice! Such a fun time to take risks! Here’s my favorite pieces that standalone or layer up for your next party.

holiday best

Dress // Shoes

I’ve always been the type to wear pretty classic and plain pieces for top and bottom and then add the personality with shoes and accessories. And a killer coat! Here’s my favorite pairings that you could rock at a party with the most boring basic outfit you’ve got:

Shoe + Coat Pairings for the Holidays

  1. I love the edginess of this leather bomber jacket with the ultra feminine glitter bow pumps $48.
  2. This cheetah coat $36 is a must if you dress pretty boring otherwise (me!) I love it with these modern white mules $70. White in Winter is so chic and unexpected, too!
  3. I love jackets like this where the fur is removable $31, it has so much mileage that way! You could be wearing a black sweater and black jeans and these two give the whole thing instant appeal.
  4. This is the combo I wore in family pictures. This knit coat / duster $99 is unbelievably cozy and I think I’ve sold at least 10 of you that I know of on the studded wingtips. So rad!
  5. Obsessed with this hooded full-faux-fur bomber $68 Red lip and silver booties $47, would be cozy for caroling outdoors!
  6. Pretty, tailored, plaid coat already $100 off + 40% off right now, with some wild velvet pom pom heels $38. Over a plain black dress? It sings.
  7. Another removable fur coat, with perfect tailoring and a flattering tie waist! $200I love the mesh cut outs on this flat $89. Its 20% off too!

Another easy addition would be festive earrings, a bold lip, cute ankle socks or over the knee. Linking some below!

weekend deals

Spend $50 on UGG brand items and get a $20 Zappos shopping credit emailed to you!

40% off Gap (50% if you have their card!)

GoJane – where I get super trendy shoes and sunglasses for cheap is 50% off site wide!

H&M Is 20% off $100 and free shipping!

Jcrew has their own outlet section “Jcrew Mercantile” on Amazon! It’s 50% off right now!

$74 for a full length puffer coat! //  $27 for high rise skinnies // $11 for this turtleneck // $45 for this sherpa bomber 

Target – 20% off women’s, all pajamas toy deals galore! Like legos, bikes and ride-ons, 20% off board games Guess Who always and forever.

West Elm 20% off furniture 25% off everything else! And then 50% off tons of seasonal decor! Like $12 for this tree topper?

 

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rendezvouz box

Get 20% off your first date with SMALLFRY!

Another awesome gift idea for you guys today! Even through our crazy year Russ and I never let date night slide and it was really the only thing holding us together at times! Even if it was just a sushi run after the kids went to bed, the TIME is the important thing. But if you’re like us and there’s definitely one person planning the dates, securing the sitter, making it happen it can start to feel like work instead of fun. Anyone in that boat?Rendezvous Box

This is where Rendezvous Box comes in! You take a quiz on their site so they know your ideal date night situation. They create the itinerary, handle ALL the details. Reservations, appointments, tickets, even down to parking. You just show up and be together! We got our itinerary in the mail a few hours before we left and it was so fun to be spontaneous and have those nervous butterflies. Where are we going? What are we doing? And since they take care of it, both parties get to enjoy without stress. Here’s our date! I’ll tag the itinerary below!

Chocolate tasting (Hi Steve!) at Hatch Family Chocolates. With a Carmel Malone for the road. 😉 Dinner at Avenues Proper – their beet salad and burger were our favorite!Then axe throwing at Social Axe. Russ said he wanted to join an axe club after that so you can guess how that went!

You can check it out here, don’t forget SMALLFRY for 20% off!

 

houseguest how-to

Sponsored by Quilted Northern®. All thoughts are my own!

So my sister and her family stayed with us for Thanksgiving, and our bunk room was put to full use! My older sister and I haven’t lived in the same state in 10+ years and if you’ve ever dealt with this, you know that I feel like I’m making up for lost time! All the missed playdates and sitter swapping and grocery store runs and nights out. I wanted her whole family to feel accommodated, of course, but especially her. I hoped that she’ feel pampered and that it’s a little bit of a vacation for her instead of a lot of work, like traveling with kids tends to be!

Houseguest How-ToSo, how about a grazing plate full of favorite shelf-stable snacks that you can store in their room for late night snack cravings? Plus plenty of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush® because who likes the walk of shame to ask the host where they can find an extra roll?One quick Walmart run (my closest grocery store and go-to!) and I had everything I needed.  Nuts and apples for healthy options. Chocolate-covered pretzels and foil-wrapped chocolates for a sweet treat. Nighttime teas like chamomile, peppermint or a pumpkin roobois that feel festive and timely this winter.Since her kids go down early (and so do mine God willing, ha!) I wanted to have some fun treatments to do with her! Nail polish, face masks, and peels—all found at Walmart as well! I love putting gel eye masks on ice for that extra refreshing kick and to help with tired under-eyes. I put ice in a bowl and then another bowl of the eye masks on top! You can also just keep the whole container in the fridge, but I like having a room-temperature option sometimes, too!

And don’t forget plenty of soft, fluffy towels and that 3-layered, cushiony Ultra Plush toilet paper to make everything feel luxe. Plus, their 4-in-1 Mega Roll is four times bigger than their regular roll so you can worry less about changing your toilet paper roll. Why Quilted Northern? They say it best: It’s just really nice toilet paper. Skimping on a tissue that feels like thin sandpaper is not an option for my best older sis! 😉

Anything I missed for next time? Let me know in the comments!

 

gift guide: jane.com

Sponsored by Jane.com

Jane.com is a flash deal site from right here in Utah! We’ve worked with them several times over the years and always been amazed at the deals they work out for their shoppers! I got this peg doll nativity from there (it’s gone now unfortunately!) but that’s part of the adventure! Keep your eyes peeled for new deals all the time!Jane.com Gift Ideas But here’s several ideas live NOW will get all those little and big presents check off the list at a screaming deal!

My fave make-up brush cleaner $3 // Thin bangles with all sorts of sayings for staking or a dainty single. $7 // A million options of on-trend earrings for $7! // Genuine leather slippers for $25! // Skinny ties for $12 // Your man or son’s favorite stadium in poster size! // Invisible Ink pens, perfect stocking stuffer! Less than $1 each. // My fave: personalized pennant banners for $15! // Slouchy beanies for kids! $12 // Henleys as tees or bodysuits $10 // Disc swing for $40 which is 30 less than anywhere I’ve seen! //

Light The World 2018

So excited to participate in church’s annual service oriented Holiday Advent starting December 1st (Saturday!) They do such a good job making the month of December more meaningful with daily ideas and tasks. I have loved doing it with my kids and feel like we need it more than ever this year. You can download it here!light the world 2018

I love that they have weekly videos to inspire and share with my family to recenter ourselves each week of the month, too! Here is the first week’s!

And now for the real story + the why!

Hunter FowlerI read somewhere that traditions give children a sense of belonging. I 100% attest to that and found it to be true not just for kids. My parents divorced when I was a young married student and it’s been so interesting and bittersweet to see how it turned my extended family life upside down. I think ultimately since both Russ and I come from split homes (I won’t speak for Russ) I have felt that grander sense of belonging missing. Of course I feel safe and secure and loved in my own home, but in that larger familial sense. Brene said
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.”  That vulnerability, the ability to move and work through life without the paralyzing need to be perfect, all things that come from that sense of belonging. Things I see now as an adult I totally lack! I want this so badly for my kids!

My parents divorce was and, although it has improved, is ugly. I know healthy partnerships exist post-marriage and I respect the HELL out of those people. I know it’s possible and if you’re navigating that situation: don’t stop fighting for that civility and peace! I can only imagine how wonderful that must feel for everyone involved! I just know the damage the opposite can do, and it is far-reaching.

I didn’t anticipate all the adapting we’d need to do! Small things: Where do we go for holidays, who arranges the gift exchange? Or big: How do we spend time together when people can’t be in the same room together. So many relationships are strained or estranged. Sometimes it feels easier to just avoid it altogether!

Can’t we just be with our friends? That poses it’s own issues, especially in Utah where so many people have extended family nearby and they spend holidays and Sundays and special occasions and even grocery store runs together it can be hard to find that sense of belonging elsewhere. Everyone’s covered, ya know? They’ve got their people for the important days. It’s made me feel an immense need to be that place for my own kids, always. And also to be that place for others who need it, too.

Every time Russ and I talked about our house layout or made even the smallest decisions it was with this in mind. How can we be a place for others to come and feel at home. To be a place that will always fit and no one would ever feel like an imposition. We looked forward so much to hosting for the holidays and having family come stay and this first Thanksgiving felt so amazing for all of these reasons! I showed a clip of the party left-overs and sure it’s annoying to clean, but I honestly loved it. I love seeing the remnants of belonging. Of my kids and their cousins having dance parties in the loft, building race tracks in the toy room. Cuddling in blankets in front of the TV. Chatting by the crackling fire, and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the deer in the yard or the horses in the pasture or the view. It all means so much to me.

As a mom I feel the pressure to be the creator and executor of traditions. The whole thing can be exhausting! I love simple aids like this advent to help guide the way! I have navigated A LOT of activities and ideas to see what felt right for our family. What should stick as tradition, little or grand! I think it all comes down to the feeling it creates in your home, and in your family. Here’s some of the ones we’ve tried out!

I’m challenging myself this year to have a magical Christmas without spending money. (Minus presents on the day of, of course!) As I went through our favorite traditions and saw the $$ piling up, instead of feeling dread over how to afford it without going into debt. How to fit it all in. I’m taking those stressors out of the equation. And focusing on creating the magic without extras. Using creativity, what we already have, our own sweat equity, to serve one another and those around us. I’ll be sure to share all my ideas as we go, but would love to hear yours, too!!

FREE

Riding the train to see the lights at Temple Square, or Grand America Window Display and Giant Gingerbread (train tickets are $5 each I think but worth not dealing with parking!)

Service Advent

Christmas Book Advent

Singing Carols at the Piano

Scavenger Hunt for big or exciting gifts on Christmas morning

A special breakfast or breakfast item for after presents

Family movie night with hot cocoa and popcorn

Sledding / Snowball Fights / Build a Snowman

Cousin Handmade Gift Exchange

Have kids write their own year in review and share with family or mail with Christmas card. Save each year and make a book!

Gather donations for those in need.

Go caroling, deliver treats, offer service or help with projects.

WITH COST

Lower Lights Hymn Revival Concert

Utah Symphony Here Comes Santa Claus

Sibling Gift Exchange – game gift exchange with game night attached

One on one dates! Let each child pick one holiday themed thing to do with just their parents. Or one parent if you don’t want to worry about childcare.

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