Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide

Christmas is almost here! You still have presents to buy! Planning a trip to the mall with your smalls? I have extensive experience in this area, so I've made you an illustrated guide to Christmas Shopping with Toddlers.


Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide  |  Best Birthdays


Step 1: Get the Kids' Winter Gear On

It's cold and snowing outside, so you should budget one to two hours for getting coats, hats, and boots on your toddler(s). I recommend starting this process around 7 am to ensure you get to the mall before it closes.


Step 2: Warm Up the Car

Run outside and start the car so that you don't get frostbite while you're driving.


Step 3: Put the Kids' Winter Gear On

Yeah, they took it all off while you were starting the car, and now they want to wear their sandals. Hurl the sandals into the basement and wrestle their boots back on. 


Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide  |  Best Birthdays

Step 4: Pee Break

Now one of your kids has to pee, and they don't want to go to the bathroom while wearing a coat. 


Step 5: Get the Kids' Winter Gear On

After your child has used the bathroom, you will need to dress them again. This gets progressively harder every time, so you should expect some tears. Once you've stopped crying, you should put your coat on, too.


Step 6: Bring Kids to Car

Haul them outside. Despite their earlier reluctance to dress properly or leave the house, they are now overjoyed to be outdoors. They begin frolicking like kittens in a field of flowers, stomping and rolling in the snow. 


Step 7: Put Kids in Car

The car has been warming up for 45 minutes now, so it's time to strap the kids in. They are having the time of their lives outside, so they won't go willingly. Pick up a child and attempt to place him in the car seat. He will spread his limbs wide and go rigid, as if you are trying to stuff him into an active volcano. Wave merrily at the neighbours to reassure them as your child screams in rage.

If you have two toddlers, you can now repeat this process on the other side of your car. If you have more than two toddlers, you are screwed.


Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide  |  Best Birthdays

Step 8: Bribery

Now that you've been at this for over an hour, you are willing to resort to bribery. Promise your kids a treat once you get to the mall. I may have occasionally used the phrase "I will do ANYTHING if you will JUST SIT in your car seat." Try not to sound too desperate, though - they can smell your fear.


Step 9: Drive to Mall

If your car is anything like mine, the drive will be accompanied by your kids singing along to "Let it Go," which has been on repeat for about a year.


Step 10: Attempt to Begin Shopping

Something is wrong with your child. The issue could be any one of a number of things (eg: coat too heavy, lights too bright, hungry, cold, hot, cold but also hot). The result is always the same: you begin a debate that would test the skills of top hostage negotiators. 


Step 11: Ignore Fellow Shoppers

Your child will now lay down on the floor to ensure she has optimal acoustics for her screams of rage and indignation. Tantrums are great entertainment, so everyone passing by will stare at you. 50% of them are sympathetic, and 50% of them are judging you. Ignore them all - they are merely a distraction from your shopping mission.


Step 12: Shopping

Strap your kids into a giant mall stroller that does not fit down the aisles in any mall stores. Give them popcorn, cookies, or some other treat that cost you three times as much as it would in a grocery store. This treat is your hourglass: when it runs out, so has your time for shopping. 

Dash through stores like a crazy person, attempting to locate gifts that are meaningful, practical, and within your budget. Divide your attention between this task and the machine-gun barrage of questions from your kids ("Who's that for? What's that do? Can I have one? Why not? Why are cookies round?"). 


Step 13: Paying

You have found several of the items on your list! You are a Successful Person. Your elation is short-lived, though, as you quickly discover that the line-up for the cashier extends out the door. You eye your kids' dwindling cookie supply as you join the line.

Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide  |  Best Birthdays

Step 14: Giving Up

The line edges forward in excruciatingly small increments. "Frosty the Snowman" plays for the billionth time. Time loses all meaning. Your kids start to cry / complain / bite each other. The person at the front of the line is paying for a $50 purchase with quarters. You toss your would-be gifts on the nearest shelf and head for the exit. 


Step 15: Put the Kids' Winter Gear On

One of them has lost a boot somewhere in the mall. Retrace steps. Vow to never leave your house again, threaten to never give kids cookies again for their whole lives.


Step 16: Buy Everything Online

I suppose you could also start with Step 16. You know, if you don't want a challenge.   


Christmas Shopping with Toddlers: an Illustrated Guide  |  Best Birthdays

But really, just shop online.Now you don't have to dig through piles of clothes looking for sizes, you won't be stuck with a lot of impulse purchases, and you don't have to worry about hiding things you're buying for the kids. Bonus: you will also save money on bribes!



Friday, November 25, 2016

December Birthdays Suck: How to Help

I love Christmas - the decorations, the cookies, the Grinch! But if you have a birthday in December, the spirit of the season tends to outshine your special day. No one can compete with Santa.


Nevertheless, there are ways to mitigate the suck! Parents of December babies (and grown-up December babies themselves) gave me some suggestions about how to make Christmastime birthdays suck LESS.





If You Have a Child or Friend with a Birthday in December...


1) Use birthday wrapping paper only.

I love a shortcut, but Christmas paper is not okay. Out of birthday paper and the party is tomorrow? There are lots of cute printable wrapping papers online! 



2) Do not combine gifts.

You need to give one gift for the birthday, and a separate gift for Christmas. The birthday present should NOT have a Christmas or Santa theme. If you have a December baby, you may need to let your family and friends know about this rule ahead of time.



3) Consider an alternative party date.

December is a hectic month full of Christmas parties, shopping, and preparations for the holidays. Many people won't be able to attend a party this month, so consider hosting an UnBirthday party in November. And either way, get those invitations out early! At this time of year, the more notice, the better.



4) Celebrate Half-Birthdays! 

You can also have a half-birthday party in the summer to give your child a 6-month spread between their birthday and Christmas. This way, they get a full year of celebration.



5) Make a big deal on the big day.

This is a given, but it requires extra thought during the holidays. Many restaurants, theatres, and other venues are closed or have shortened hours, so plan ahead.



Bonus Tip: It helps to set aside some special time at home, especially if the birthday person was born ON Christmas day. My friend Lyss has a son who was born on Christmas. They always have cupcakes with candles, and his parents and grandparents all gather to talk specifically about the birthday boy - his birth, his life, and how things will change now that he's older. Lyss is careful to keep this celebration separate from the Christmas festivities.

Traditions like this will soften the blow when your kids are old enough to realize that the tree is not a Birthday Tree, and those fireworks on the 31st are not all about them. Good luck, and Merry Birthday.



Full disclosure: These ideas are all courtesy of my friends who have December birthdays or December babies in their families. Thank you to Merry, Brooke, Jocelyn, Meg, Ken, Evette, Lyss, Dana, and Robin. And happy birthday to most of them, as well. I will try REALLY hard not to forget this year.


If you like things that don't suck, follow me on Facebook!



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Christmas Lies Pinterest Has Told Me

It's that time of year! The time when I start to feel like I should be doing something more, in order to make the Christmas season Magical and Special for my children. If we are not making PRECIOUS MEMORIES, I am doing something wrong. So I turn to Pinterest for inspiration.

Here's the problem. Pinterest is like this guy I dated in high school. He was pretty and interesting, but he lied to me and made me feel bad about myself. Ultimately, he was a big waste of time.

Nobody wants That Guy around during the holidays, but I still can't manage to tear myself away from festive pins. But the pins LIE, people. They lie. Here are some of the most egregious falsehoods that Pinterest has told me about Christmas.





1) You Should Make Your Own Christmas Cards

Lie:
Your Christmas cards should feature adorable photos of your children, wrapped in Christmas lights or popping gleefully out of festive boxes.

Truth:
If you try this, you will get 1000 photos of your kids crying or making weird faces. If you get one of them looking mostly normal, it will cost $200 to get it printed for all your Christmas cards, and then you won't be able to afford presents. No one wins.



2) Advent Calendars are Fun for Kids

Lie:
You should make an advent calendar, and then give your kids a small gift every day in December. It’s a fun-filled Christmas countdown!

Truth:
Buying 24 small presents for your kids will make you so, so tired. Then your kids will open ALL of them on the first of December, and you will cry.



3) You Should Buy an Elf on the Shelf

Lie:
This elf doll will make your kids believe in magic as it mysteriously moves to a new location in your house every night!

Truth: 
Look at that thing. LOOK at its SMILE. It's clearly evil. You are already buying gifts and stocking stuffers, decorating your house, and making the season fucking merry. You don't have time for this shit.



4) You Should Feed Your Kids Christmas-Themed Food

Lie:
You should make pancakes in a Santa shape, and sandwiches in reindeer shapes! It’s festive and your kids will love it!

Truth:
Never, ever make your kids' food into fun shapes - it raises their expectations. It begins with a reindeer sandwich, and then next thing you know, they won't eat anything bread-shaped any more. They have a new standard, and suddenly ALL their food should be fun! It's a slippery slope, people.



5) Your Christmas is Not Good Enough

Lie:
Christmas needs baking! And DIY! Make all the things!

Truth:
If you love making stuff pretty, go for it. If you don't, fuck it. Your kids will not care if you don't DIY a single thing, and bakeries exist so that we don't have to bake.



Seeing Pinterest during the holidays is hard. His standards are insanely high, and he is a fucking liar. So if Pinterest at Christmas makes you feel inferior, don't worry. It's not you – it's him. 





Sunday, November 20, 2016

Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary

You want stocking stuffers that are fun and high-quality, but you don't want to spend a million dollars. And you want to know what's in all the stores so that you don't have to go to ALL the stores. Right?

I went to all the best places in Calgary to buy stocking stuffers, and I took a ton of pictures for you. Nothing in this post is over $10. You are welcome.





1) Mastermind Toys

There are three Mastermind stores in Calgary now, so you shouldn't have trouble getting to one. I love this place for loot bag and stocking fillers. If you look near the checkout area, you'll see shelves like these:

Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


TONS of little things, and I didn't see anything for more than ten bucks. And at Mastermind, they only carry high-quality toys, so you don't have to worry about that. 

I know it's hard to tell exactly what's there in that picture, so I took a few more photos. The selection changes regularly, but when I was there, Mastermind had: a Lego Vader LED Light!


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Cute watches!


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


A 3D Drawing Pad. WHAT.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Back by the dollhouses, you will also find these tiny Hape baby dolls. They are only $3 each, and made of wood! I think I bought six of these.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Directly beside the cash registers, there's even MORE stuff. These tiny tiny animals are 79 cents each.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


There are also cool pencils, little wooden cars ($2 each), and tons of other small cute things.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays



2) Scholar's Choice

Apparently, some of the Scholar's Choice stores no longer have small loot-bag-sized things. I went to the Shawnessy store, and they had lots. 

My favourite item was these small, double-sided puzzles ($3.50 each)! I bought some for our recent vacation, and my kids love them. Despite the low price, they are still high-quality - the pieces fit together well, and they are nice and sturdy. The finished puzzle is 5 x 7 inches, and the box is about 2 x 3 - perfect for a stocking. There are several different designs, including dinosaurs, rockets, unicorns, and fairies.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


I also love to put art supplies in stockings, and Scholar's Choice has a wide selection, including metallic and glitter markers ($6.99 each)!


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


They also have all the old standards, as well as a HUGE selection of individual pencils. That doesn't sound exciting, but as a kid, I LOVED buying pencils. Just me?


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


I also thought these Mini Dig Kits were super cool. They are $5.99, and with each kit, your child excavates a genuine specimen - a gemstone, fossil, shark tooth, or a bug.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


And what kid does not want to touch bubbles? I think that's one of my toddler's life goals right now. These Grab-a-Bubble bottles are $2.50.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays



3) Indigo / Chapters

Books are great gifts, but too big for stockings. Luckily, Indigo has tons of small cute loot bag / stocking stuffer things too. Check in the kids' area AND the gift / stationary section to be sure you see it all. 

For instance, small Lego kits! They also have the blind-bag Minifigs, which are great stocking stuffers too. 


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Crayon necklaces! (DO NOT EAT.)


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Candycane-shaped Play-doh! I love these tiny Play-Doh containers for travel or restaurants.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Near the check-out, I found all kinds of awesome lip gloss. Let's face it - EVERYONE in Calgary has chapped lips right now. These ones look like fries and a burger, which is obviously the best.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


There are also music boxes that play Christmas songs! I love music boxes. 


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


And if you are nice enough to get stocking things for your husband, he will get a kick out of these tiny survival kits and multi-tools. Always be prepared for an apocalypse. Or, you know, camping. 


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays



4) Michael's 

Michael's has inexpensive loot-bag stuff all over the stores lately. There used to be one aisle for it, but now my local store has it in three different places. So look all around. And download the app to get the 40% off coupon!

My nearest Michael's store had Magic Grow capsules for $2. You put them in water, and a sponge creature slowly breaks out. Then if your kids are like mine, they try to eat the sponges.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


They also had a TON of Hello Kitty stuff. There were Hello Kitty stickers, crayons, playing cards, and more - all for $1.50 each. 


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Michael's ALWAYS has a whole bunch of colouring books that are $1 each. That's right - ONE DOLLAR. Roll it up and it will fill a lot of stocking space!


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


Michael's also always has these "play packs" in stock. I LOVE THESE. They include a tiny colouring book, stickers, and a pack of 4 crayons, for a DOLLAR. I buy tons and leave them in the car for days when we want to eat at a restaurant like civilized people. But they would also make great stocking stuffers.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


5) Party City

I have a whole article about how much I love Party City. They have a TON of loot bag items that you can easily use as stocking stuffers. The quality is lower than the stores above - more like what you would find at the dollar store. But the selection totally makes up for this. If you look around, you can find lots of things your kids will love, like bubbles, bracelets, and tiny notebooks.

They have lots of products based on TV shows and characters, like Cars, Disney Princesses, Spiderman, Yo Gabba Gabba, and more.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays


They also have fun things like Sheriff badges, tiny paint palettes, teeny notebooks, slinkies, train conductor hats ($2), etc etc ETC. SO MUCH STUFF. Nearly everything small is $1 or less.


Best Places to Buy Stocking Stuffers in Calgary  |  Best Birthdays



That's it! Did I miss anything? What are you putting in your kids' stockings?



Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by any stores or products. I'm just a little obsessive. 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Last-Minute Halloween Party

There's just one week left until Halloween! Holidays tend to sneak up on me, and this is usually the point where I realize I am OUT OF TIME and I can't do all the things I wanted.

But you still have time to throw a kick-butt Halloween party. For reals! Start with my easy Halloween decorations and printables. Throw in my super easy Halloween games, and you're good to go.




These giant pom pom spiders only take fifteen minutes to make! You definitely have time for that.




While you're making spiders, you can print some party invites, thank-you tags, and food and drink labels with these free Halloween printables. Multitask!




At the party, these DIY trick-or-treat bags were a huge hit with all the kids - from two to eight years old!



Finally, check out my post about super easy games for a Halloween party. You can buy everything you'll need in one trip to Wal-Mart, and it involves almost no prep work!




What's your favourite Halloween activity?


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