2020 in Review

It is hard to believe it has almost been a whole year since this pandemic hit Ontario. While some days seemed impossible to get through, the year flew by. In January 2020, I was just returning to work after more than a year off for maternity leave. My office had moved while I was off, meaning my commute was twice as long as it had been previously, and it was a tough transition. I was just starting to get used to it (less than 2 months in) when we went in to lockdown.

Working from home was difficult at first. I was still relearning parts of my role and the kids were home too. Trying to keep an almost 4 year old and 1 year old happy and busy and fed throughout the day while also concentrating on work was hard, but we made it through those first few months and they were able to start back at daycare safely in July. I know that I have been incredibly lucky that I am able to work from home and minimize risk to myself and my family. While it hasn’t always been easy, I am so grateful for that, and that I am able to continue to do so during this second lockdown.

The kids have grown so much this year. Henry turned 4 in June with a quiet little dinosaur themed birthday celebration of only us. He started school in September and is so good about wearing his mask. Kids are so adaptable and he has been a champ. He is learning so much and I am so impressed with him. Nora turned 2 in October, with another quiet celebration. She has started talking like crazy and she is so funny. I love seeing their personalities really develop and shine.

Spending so much time at home this year, I tried to make holidays as fun as possible with activities, or little baskets of goodies. Last year, I had started a new tradition of creating an activity advent calendar for the kids for the Christmas countdown. Nora was little too young then to enjoy it, but Henry had lots of fun, so I wanted to continue it this year. I included some crafts and some little treats and goodies. Some days they were not as in to it as I had hoped, but it did help get us in to the festive spirit.

I kept the calendar itself pretty simple again this year, using some kraft envelopes, simple tags, wooden beads and fresh greenery. I got all of the supplies (aside from the greenery) from Michael’s. I had a bunch of the kraft envelopes left over from last year, and the tags came in a 24 pack, which was so perfect. I got a pack of assorted wooden beads and strung them on a piece of twine. I hung everything from a small birch branch and added the greenery with some floral wire. Below are the things we did each day.

Day 1 – Open a new pair of Christmas jammies – I got these ones from Old Navy

Day 2 – Write and send a letter to Santa – since we didn’t get to do a visit or picture with Santa this year, I tried to get them as excited as possible about writing letters and putting them in the mail box. I love that we get responses back when we send them to Santa’s address (Santa Claus, North Pole HOH OHO)
Day 3 – Bake some Christmas cookies – just some Pillsbury gingerbread cookies with some homemade icing to start things off easy
Day 4 – Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows – I picked up some new reindeer mugs from Walmart as soon as Christmas stuff came out, and we tried out the new hot chocolate bomb trend. It was a huge hit! You can use a kinder egg, split it in half and fill one side with hot chocolate powder and some mini marshmallows. Then heat the other side with a warm plate so that you can reseal the egg. Put it in your mug and pour your hot milk over it and watch it explode

Day 5 – Make a Christmas ‘tree-t’ – we drizzled some melted chocolate over pretzels in the shape of a tree, added some crushed candy cane and let them cool in the fridge for a few minutes for a fun little treat

Day 6 – Make a Christmas garland to hang in their rooms – I thought this one was a lot of fun. They got a little bored after making a few of the trees, but helped me put them all together at the end, and they were excited to have something Christmas-y to hang in their rooms

Day 7 – Do a Christmas craft – this one was paint your own nutcraker. They love to paint, so they had fun with it. I got the nutcrakers from the dollar store, they came with paint and the hair and beard to glue on at the end
Day 8 – Santa pancakes for breakfast – We made these for Christmas breakfast last year, and they loved them, so I decided to incorporate them in the advent calendar this year. Super simple, just some small pancakes stacked, with whipped cream, a strawberry and a mini marshmallow to look like Santa’s hat

Day 9 – A new pair of Christmas socks – I thought this one would be a little boring for them, but I had ordered the socks with their Christmas jammies and once I got everything together for the calendar I didn’t want to make an unnecessary trips out for more things, so the socks got their own day. The kids actually loved them. Nora still talks about her Santa socks
Day 10 – Make a gift for our teachers – We made some little ornaments to include in our Christmas gifts to our teachers. On this day, the kids were both tired, there were lots of meltdowns, they kept stealing each other supplies and fighting, but that is reality with kids. We got the ornaments made in the end

Day 11 – Watch a Christmas movie – The kids picked Polar express this year. We got in our jammies, made some popcorn and they cuddled up on the couch to watch
Day 12 – Make clay ornaments for the tree – we used air dry clay and Christmas cookie cutters to create some ornaments. They added little faces to them, and painted a few after they dried. The air dry clay takes 2 – 3 days to fully dry, but if it gets wet again they can get mushy and you have to wait for them to dry again. I will probably attempt salt dough next year since it dries a little harder
Day 13 – Decorate a gingerbread house – this year I assembled the house ahead of time, because it is harder to do with little hands. The kids each got a bowl of the candy to add and we helped them with the icing. Probably only half the candy made it on to the house, but they had fun

Day 14 – A Christmas music dance party – we turned up the Christmas music, turned on the disco light, turned to the tree to the multi-coloured lights (which the kids love and I hate, but I love that our tree gives us the option of both), and they ran around and danced and laughed. They both love dancing

Day 15 – Make reindeer food – Mixed together some oats and festive sprinkles (you can also use glitter), put the mix in little baggies, added some googly eyes and a red pom pom nose, and used a cork snowflake from the dollar store to make the antlers

Day 16 – A new Christmas book to open and read – this one was ‘Finding Christmas’ by Robert Munch
Day 17 – Do a Christmas craft – I had found some little wooden gingerbread men, a tree and a snowflake at Michael’s for really cheap, then the kids painted them with water colours. It was a super quick activity, so great for a weeknight
Day 18 – Have a bath with a Christmas bath bomb – The kids recently discovered bath bombs, and love them. Nora isn’t a huge fan of baths normally, so it helps make them a little more fun for her, but this one was a bit of a flop. I didn’t want to go near the mall or any big stores, so I bought some from a little local shop offering porch pickup. It smelled delicious, but didn’t have any fun colours and didn’t last very long, so it was pretty anti-climactic
Day 19 – A picnic under the tree – this was Henry’s most favourite day on the advent calendar last year and he loved it this year too! We made a little charcuterie lunch, put down a blanket and some little twinkle lights and we ate under the Christmas tree

Day 20 – Go for a winter walk to look at Christmas lights. This year we went to Spencer Smith park to check to their light displays. It was a little muddy since we got rain instead of snow, but the kids had fun checking everything out. One positive side about having to wear masks is that they keep our faces warm on winter walks

Day 21 – Open and read a new Christmas book – this one was ‘Bear Stays Up for Christmas’. It was really cute
Day 22 – Do a Christmas craft – this one was yarn trees. I cut tree shapes out of some cardboard, and then we wrapped them in green yarn and the kids added some pom poms and little bells to decorate them. An easy craft that they loved (when they weren’t fighting over the glue)

Day 23 – Do you want to build a snowman? – I was hoping that we would have snow by this point in the calendar, but we didn’t so I had to improvise. I grabbed an old pair of socks, we added some dried lentils (for weight) and some stuffing I got from an old stuffed animal with a hole in it, then rolled the top down to create the hat. They added a pom pom, some eyes, some buttons down the front, a ‘carrot’ nose which I had cut out of foam board and a scarf, which I had cut out of leftover felt from our garlands on day 6. We used a few twigs we found outside for the arms

Day 24 – Bake cookies for Santa – we spent the morning making the dough and baking our sugar cookies, and the afternoon decorating them with icing. Then the kids picked a few to set out for Santa, and one for each of us to eat

Overall, the advent calendar was a lot of fun for me to plan, and aside from some of the sibling fights, a lot fun for the kids to open and do each day. The holiday season always seems to fly by, and this at least adds a little extra magic to it.

Did you follow along in my instagram stories during December? Did you have a favourite day? Any suggestions for next year? I already have a list started of things to incorporate. I think next year I will add some giving back days – donating some toys, etc.

Safe At Home

Somehow, even though I have barely left the house for more than a walk around the block in the last month, I feel busier and more overwhelmed than ever. The transition to working full time from home, while also trying to keep the kids occupied and entertained and fed has been tough. I feel like I haven’t had a second to stop and actually take it all in. Even though I get to be with my kids all day, I don’t feel like I am getting much quality time with them, because I am always just trying to keep them busy while I get work done. As much as there were things I did not enjoy about leaving the house for work, I am missing the structure a little bit.

But there has also been so many benefits to being home. Even if it is not necessarily the way I’d like to spend time with my kids, I get to see so much more of them. I’m not commuting 3 and a half hours everyday, and I get to sleep in a little bit longer. I know that I am very lucky that I have the option and ability to work from home, and even if most days are pure chaos, I am grateful for that time.

Easter definitely looks a little different this year too, but I did my best to make it special for the kids despite everything that is going on in the world right now (thank god for Amazon and online shopping). I don’t really decorate a ton for Easter, though as the kids get older, I am pulled to add more. This year I just made some Rae Dunn inspired eggs to add in my kitchen from some plastic eggs that I got from the dollar store, and I painted some ceramic bunnies (also from the dollar store) gold to go on the shelves. I had plans for a few more things, but ran out of time, so next year it is. The kids and I also made and decorated some Easter cookies, and Henry did a few Easter crafts.

What I was most excited for this year was their Easter baskets. I’ve been stashing some things away for a few months and planning out what I wanted to get them for a while. It was made a little more difficult not being able to pop out for anything, but I am pretty happy with how they turned out. I will add a full list of the items I included and the sources at the end.

I have been trying to be more conscious of the toys I am buying now (and most specifically for Henry). I am trying not to buy as many toys just for playing with (he has plenty of hot wheels and other things), but more toys with a specific teaching purpose. I have also been trying to buy more wooden toys, rather than plastic. This year I got him a wooden bear clock, so he can learn how to tell time. He knows how to read a digital clock because he knows his numbers, but he doesn’t understand the concept of time yet, so this might help. I also got him a wooden lace practice ‘shoe’ so that he can learn how to tie shoes. He mostly wears slip on or velcro right now, but it is good for him to start learning. He is picking up so much, so quickly now and I am so excited to see him continue to do so when he starts school. I only hope I can instill in him some confidence in himself. I have always struggled with that myself, especially in school and I don’t want him or Nora to grow up feeling like he can’t do things, or try new things because they’re not good enough or smart enough.

This morning, we woke the kids up to Easter bags waiting for them at their doors, and a trail of chocolate eggs leading down the stairs to the front room. They did their egg hunt, and then there was a scavenger hunt for their baskets. Then we had Easter-shaped pancakes for breakfast. As much as we are missing the rest of our families for this holiday, it was a fun morning with them.

This years DIY Easter photos are below, as well as all the sources for the goodies in the kids baskets

Henry’s basket

Bear clock and tic tac toe game (in the cutest bunny pouch) – Tender Leaf Toys
Shoe lacer – Sweet Child of Pine
Shoes – Walmart (exact pair linked)
Binoculars – Amazon (exact pair linked)
Pennant flag – Blushing Wit Designs (digital download, I added the yarn streamers and heart)
Bunny cookie pop – made by me

Nora’s basket

Bunny puzzle – Sweet Child of Pine
Shoes – Piper Finn Footwear
Wooden camera – Amazon (exact one linked)
Rainbow bathing suit – Joe Fresh (bought last year on sale)
Bloomers – Kingsley and Peaches
Bows – Little Poppy Co
Pennant flag – Blushing Wit Designs

St Patrick’s Day

I don’t usually do much for St. Patrick’s Day for the kids aside from dress them in some green and take a few photos, but it felt extra important this year to try and keep things cheery. I saw this super cute (and really yummy) treat idea on @chasing_nostalia’s instagram and I had to try it out with Henry. It was so easy. I picked up a few honey dip donuts, cut them in half, split my icing into 4 equal parts and added some food colouring (you could do more colours if you wanted). Henry helped me ice them, and even Nora tried. They both really enjoyed eating them afterwards (and so did I).

I also decided to put together a small basket of goodies for the kids. Most of it I already had hanging around because I like to stash things away for the next event. I had 2 plain white t-shirts, and some iron-on vinyl, so I used my Cricut and added ‘lucky charm’ to each of them for their St. Patrick’s Day outfits. I had picked up some new sidewalk chalk, some stickers and a rainbow themed activity book a few weeks ago from Michael’s, so I added those. I included Nora’s March Little Poppy Co. bows, because they are perfect for the occasion. I had also bought a beautiful macrame rainbow from JsRainbows on Etsy a few weeks ago for Nora’s room. It seemed like the perfect thing to add. Finally I just added some St. Patrick’s Day themed paper straws I got from Dollarama. It was a perfect way to add some cheer.

In the morning, I made them green pancakes with some whipped cream on top, and added some Lucky Charm marshmallows. It was a hit. They weren’t really feeling photos in their t-shirts, so I didn’t push it this year, but they looked really cute.

Little Loves

This year, we decided to make some rice crispy treats for our friends at daycare as part of their valentine’s day gift. Henry helped me make them, cut them (using a cookie cutter), and ice them (and add some sprinkles of course). I love getting him involved whenever I can now that he’s old enough to be doing more. He loves it too, he asks to help with dinner all the time now. Anyone have any easy meal ideas that a 3.5 year old can help with so that we can keep his interest up? How do you get your kids involved in meal times? Hopefully his interest in helping will lead to an easier time actually getting him to eat. Here is the final rice crispy product

I also decided this year to put together a small basket of goodies for each of the kids. I kept them pretty simple for this year.

One of the things I wanted to include in Nora’s didn’t make it in time, but she got an adorable suspender skirt from @feathered_breaths (can’t wait to put her in it), a tee for her daycare v-day celebration, her @littlepoppyco bows (yes, she has a bow subscription) and a new love-themed book. Henry got some tees, a new Ugly Dolls stuffie, a few small candies and a love-themed book. They were both so excited about them. The baskets and the wooden heart garland both came from Dollarama.

Finally, here’s just a few (dozen) of my favourite pictures from this year’s valentine’s photoshoot, featuring the pom pom garland and a few of the paper hearts. I just could not narrow down the ones I liked best.

They are just my favourite people.

Their ‘loved.’ t-shirts are from Tenth & Pine and they are the softest, most comfy shirts. They have so many beautiful gender neutral tees, and if you use the link I provided (click on their name), and use the code KALER66, you get 10% off!

Let me know what you think about how the photos turned out! I am so excited thinking about looking back on these over the years and seeing how much they change and grow from each photoshoot to the next. Hopefully their bond just continues to get even stronger.

Love Month

Each year I try to do some Valentine’s day photos of the kids, because I love a theme. I also love to make some of my own decor items for the photoshoot. Last year I made some super simple heart garland, and this year I decided to add a pom pom garland. I am so excited to get it all set up and take some photos. Hopefully the kids will be just as excited. Last year they had so much fun with it. If you are interested in how I made the pom pom garland, there’s a quick step-by-step below.

To make the pom pom garland, I used a few different kinds of yarn. Each type I picked had a different texture and thickness, and I love the variety it added.

The first step is to wrap the yarn around your fingers 35-50 times (less for thicker wool, more for thinner). You could also make a template in the size you want with cardboard, but I found it easier just to wrap it around my fingers.

Next you tie the wrapped yarn in the middle with a small piece of the same yarn.

Then just cut each end and trim it down to the size you want and as even as you want, and fluff them up.

Once I had all of the pom poms made, I put them on a thin piece of twine using a needle. You can spread them out as much as or as little as you want, and just add a knot on each end so that they won’t fall off (or be pulled off by little hands).

Now I just need to figure out where in my house I am going to set up the photos for this year. Stay tuned for updates.

For now, here’s a few of my favourite photos from last year. The heart garland I made with some pink cardstock and some fishing wire.

Disney Day

This week, the kids had a Disney day at daycare where they were to dress up as one of their favourite Disney characters. Henry decided that he would be Olaf from Frozen, and I chose Piglet for Nora because he’s one of my favourites, and super easy to make.

For Henry’s costume, I found a white toque, got a white t-shirt and some coloured felt, which I cut up for eyes, a ‘carrot’ nose, his eyebrows, teeth and buttons. I used a blue marker and a sharpie for some of the details, and added some pipe-cleaners in the top for his hair. It was really easy to put together.

For Nora’s I got a pink t-shirt, and some pink felt. I used some old wire bunny ears I had as the outline for Piglet’s ears, and just reshaped them a bit, then I added the pink felt on the outside. For the t-shirt I just added an oval on the tummy in the pink felt and added some lines with sharpie for the details. She wore some pink leggings that she already had to go with it.

Both costumes were so easy to make and fun to plan and put together. The t-shirts and felt all came from Michael’s for about $13 and I found the toque at Winners for $3. It had a design on the front of it, so I just turned it inside out to make Olaf.

Do you tend to make your kids costumes or buy them?

Advent Calendar

I have had this URL for 4 years (thanks to my husband, who knew I always wanted to start a blog), but I have been so afraid to start, and I struggled to figure out where or how to start. I never really felt like I had anything important to say.

I know we’re already a month past Christmas, but I had a few questions about the advent calendar I made for the kids this year, so that felt like a good place to jump in (plus, we’re still in winter, so it still counts, right?!).

I have always loved creative little projects, even as a kid, one of my favourite parts of school was getting to draw title pages for different subjects or reports, or creating maps and cities. Since having kids of my own, my passion has grown into a bit of an obsession. I love to DIY as much as possible to make holidays and special events even more exciting for them. My original plan for the advent calendar this year was to wrap up a new book for each day, however I wanted to be very intentional with the books I chose, and that started to get really expensive, so I decided to just include a few through-out the month. From there, I decided to incorporate some of the fun holiday activities that I wanted to do this year anyway, and some fun crafts for us to do together.

We did have to make a few adjustments throughout the month based on weather, or other things we had on the schedule, but it was really easy to switch out an activity or move some around to different days even after it was made. Below is the list of what we did each day of the advent calendar this year.

Day 1 – Letter to Santa
Day 2 – Opened and read a Christmas book (Dr. Seuss: Tis the Season)
Day 3 – Made Christmas cookies

Day 4 – Visit and get a photo with Santa (poor Nora)

Day 5 – Do a Christmas craft
Day 6 – Open and read a new book
Day 7 – Watch a Christmas movie (Henry picked Klaus on Netflix)
Day 8 – Have a picnic under the Christmas tree. This was Henry’s favourite day from the calendar. We ended up having a super busy day, so instead of doing lunch under the tree as I originally envisioned, we did ‘dessert’ (after dinner Timbits)

Day 9 – Paint a Christmas ornament
Day 10 – Open and read a new book
Day 11 – Do a Christmas craft
Day 12 – Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows

Day 13 – Listen to Christmas music and have a dance party (both my kids love to dance)
Day 14 – Open and read a new book
Day 15 – Make reindeer food (oats, mixed with holiday sprinkles and/or glitter)
Day 16 – Do a Christmas craft
Day 17 – Open and read a new book
Day 18 – Do a Christmas craft

Day 19 – Decorate a gingerbread house
Day 20 – Open and read a new book
Day 21 – Go for a winter walk to look at Christmas lights
Day 22 – Make gifts for our friends at daycare
Day 23 – Open and read a new book
Day 24 – Make cookies for Santa, and put out reindeer food

To make the calendar itself, I just picked up a few different kinds of small envelopes from Michaels, a bit of gold washi tape, and some mini cloths pins. I used to scrap cardstock I had to put in each envelope detailing the activity for the day, and used some twine I had to put it all together. I decided to alternate number and written form, as well as a plain font and calligraphy to make it a little more interesting to look at (and as a bonus, to teach Henry what numbers look like spelled out). I added a stripe in washi tape every few envelopes to add some sparkle. Once I wrote out each activity on the cardstock and stuffed the envelopes, I just cloths-pinned them on to a long strand of twine and hung it in our livingroom (high enough that little fingers couldn’t reach it). Henry had so much fun finding out what each day held for him, and I loved seeing his excitement so much.

My biggest tip for anyone that wants to make this kind of advent calendar next year is to include any activity you normally do throughout the holiday season, like pictures with Santa, or baking Christmas cookies. Michael’s is a great place to get small crafts for a reasonable price (especially if you spread purchases out and use discounts), and I even got a few cute ones from the dollar store. And books are a great way to fill up space on the busy days when there is just no time for an activity. Whenever we had a day that included a book or a craft, I wrapped those up separately to add the fun of getting to open a gift.

I’m already thinking about what I want to include in our list for next year, and I’m excited to make the holiday season even more special for my kids as the grow