Last year, something that began simply, with little planning, using paper, scissors and colour pencils, created what became the activity advent calendar. Made up of ideas that our little family brainstormed during a drive, we created the most wonderful December leading up to Christmas.
The activity advent calendar was born, and we loved it so much, we’re doing it again this year.
I love the idea of an advent calendar that adds to the season through doings. In a time that is already hyper stimulated with stuff, this is a beautiful way to feel joy in giving/making/doing things together as a family, for others, and spreading joy in activity; an activity advent calendar.
Inspired by this idea, I have lovingly made some Christmas Village theme calendars that are available to buy through my shop, but it’s also something that you could easily do using materials you can find at home.
Inside every card, space to write a daily activity that the whole family can look forward to completing, either at random order, or you can choose to (secretly) number them by date too, if there are specific ones you want to complete on certain days.
With last year’s activity advent calendar, the kids absolutely loved knowing that each day there was an activity lined up for the day, and they are already asking when we’re starting the calendar this year. Below, some activity ideas, and if you have some fun ones too, leave a comment below.
My sweet Oliver is turning 3 years old in a few weeks, which means that Penelope and Oliver have been room sharing for about the same time.
I always knew that my children room sharing would be a magical, but the moments of love, of laughter, of heartwarming moments that it has brought, is more than I could have ever dreamed of… and they just keep coming.
As their room transitions through their years – from cribs, to beds, to now a bunk bed- different spaces inside the room are created that grow with them. Lately, their love of books is what inspired the reading closet, and watching the room evolve with them, is a magic that I’m so privileged to witness.
Tonight, we read two books under the “Chistmas lights” as Oliver says. We cuddled and sang, and after two songs, the room was quiet. The room was lit by the twinkle of the lights, and it was a simple but magical backdrop to my babies’ dreams.
Time and time again, my children remind me it doesn’t take much. Their shared room could be half the size it is, and they would still have everything they need.
In a way, creating the reading closet showed me that even if their room was that little space, as long as it was full of love and magic, it would be perfect.
* Reading closet inspired by one of the mommy bloggers I follow on Instagram who created a beautiful #closetcastle for her daughter (picture here)
This time last year, I was finishing up the last little details of the Elephant costumes I sewed for Penelope and Oliver. At the time, they were both obsessed with the movie “Dumbo”, so making them Elephant costumes seemed fitting. I made a pattern using one of their bigger fitting pjs. I improvised, sewed and resewed. Cut an old baby onesie to make a quilt pattern for the ears, but mostly, I made them with love, so much love.
They were Elephants for Halloween, and they were the cutest little Elephants ever.
I had every intention of putting together a Woody and a Barbie costume this year, as per their request, but last week cleaning up, I pulled out their Elephant Costumes, and Oliver specifically, has been wearing non stop since.
I asked them if they wanted be Elephants again this year – they said a very happy YES!
As a lover of nostalgia, having them choose to wear their elephant costumes again this year, makes my mama heart so happy.
Next year, they definitely won’t fit these handmade costumes anymore. I’ll look back at pictures in years to come, at those two Halloweens in which they were elephants. I will remember how they loved those costumes with as much love as their mother had making if for them, and well, it touches my heart in ways I can’t express.
We put the costumes on today and did a dress rehearsal; added some make up and a few little new details, can’t wait to see them go trick or treating with this tomorrow.
Somehow, and always, Oliver and Penelope always find the most beautiful ways to show their affection, and the simple and beautiful ways to say I love you.
When I picked my children up after work today, my mother told me that when they heard the song “Los Pollitos Dicen” on an old CD that she had found, they said “Mama”.
I am writing this for you, my darlings, Penelope and Oliver, so that you always remember the words to the songs your mother sang to you before bed time.
Growing up abroad, the lullabies my mother sang to me were different than the ones my friends knew. As a young child, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was a song that many of my friends, myself included, could easily join in to sing along to, but not if I sang “Los Pollitos Dicen”.
The lullabies my children know will also be different than the ones their little friends do. When they walk through the children’s book aisle in a store or a library, they won’t see an anthology of the songs they heard growing up. For mothers raising children in a country different than their birth country, this is a common scenario.
I remember being a two day old mom, a baby in my arms, deep in the newborn haze, and as the most natural response to my child crying, singing a lullaby I hadn’t sang in years. The melody and words so deeply memorized in my soul, that even after years of not singing it, so easily came through me.
I have sang that song to both of you every night since the day you were born. Even your father learnt to sing Los Pollitos Dicen, and he sings it even if I’m not there.
Los pollitos dicen Pío pío pío Cuando tienen hambre Y cuando tienen frio
La gallina busca El maíz y el trigo Les da la comida Y les presta abrigo
Pío pío pío
Pío pío pa
Pío pío pío
Pin Pon es un muñeco de trapo y de cartón Se lava la carita con agua y con jabón
Se desenreda el pelo con peine de marfil, y aunque se da estirones no llora ni hace así.
Pin Pon dame la mano con un fuerte apretón, que quiero ser tu amigo Pin Pon Pin Pon Pin Pon
No matter the song, if you haven’t sang it in a while, you forget the lyrics. Lullabies can be similar. The songs we learn so well in our childhood, the songs that bring us back to moments, to feelings of love and peace in our hearts before going to sleep; those parts of the song we will never forget, the lyrics are harder to remember.
And so my darlings, I write the words here for you, the same way that I sang them to you, so that if you ever have a hard time remembering the words, this help you remember everything else.
Muñequita le dijo el ratón ya no llores tontita no tienes razón. Tus amigos no son los del mundo porque te olvidaron en este rincón.
Nosotros no somos así.
Te quiere la escoba y el recogedor. Te quiere el plumero y el sacudidor. Te quiere la araña y el viejo veliz. También yo te quiero, y te quiero feliz.
You know that scene from the movie Tangled, where Rapunzel and Ryder sit on a boat and watch lanterns in the sky? Yeah, that is my dream.
There is just something magical about lanterns, and so yesterday afternoon, we made lanterns to have our own little winter festival in our backyard.
Using materials that we had around the house; recycling bags as aprons, cupcake cups as paint holders, and recycled glass jars as our lantern, we improvised to make something beautiful. My favorite kind of craft.
– Glass Jars (empty jam/pickle/tomato sauce jars)
– Acrylic paint and brushes
– Tea Light Candles
– Pipe Cleaners
It’s mesmerizing to watch them craft. Both so different in their approach.
Penelope is very focused; careful about where her colors are, and covers large areas before she switches colors to paint again.
My sweet Oliver is more playful. Sometimes painting the glass, sometimes painting his hand, and just happy to be experiencing the activity.
They covered the surface of the glass, and once it dried, I secure some pipe cleaners around the mouth of the jar to create a handle.
While they sang happy birthday (which they do every time they see a candle lately haha) I added a tea light candle into the jars. And Voila! Beautiful lanterns!
The wheels on the bus go round and round. A song that as a parent of young children, I know well – and listen to way too often, ha!
Lately though, I am happy for that song.
This is my third week back at work after being a stay at home mom for 2.5 years, and it’s been a harder transition than I imagined. Much harder than I thought. I miss the kids so much more than I ever imagined and I often find myself questioning if this was the right choice. Was this the right time? Is this what I want? There are things happening in the background that I am hesitant to share, in case I jinx it, but hoping for a better balance soon *sending the universe all the positive energy*.
The weekends have become my fuel for the week. I cherish every second I have with the kids in the week day mornings and evenings, but the weekends are my heaven. I immerse myself back into what once was our everydays, and we pick up right where we left of. I lay in bed with them a little longer, I look at my phone less, I listen to the new things they tell me, the new words Penelope learns, the new sounds Oliver is able to make, and I make sure that I try reeeeaally really hard not to miss a thing.
The kids are doing well. They are happy to visit with Grandma everyday (thank goodness for my mom being able to watch them- makes the transition a million times easier). They are also making new friends, and I hear Penelope talk about her favorite when she comes home, which makes me smile.
For my first weekend after going back to work, we decided to spend a day out, differently. We bundled up, left our car keys at home, and explored the city for a whole day on the bus. Sounds like a very simple thing to do, but it was so much fun.
Whether you take the bus often or not, there is something about taking the bus when there is no pressure of making it from point A to B on time that makes the ride so enjoyable. My husband and I could cuddle and hold hands while we heard the children’s laughter, watched how they made other people on the bus smile, and witnessed the joy on their faces for simply doing something new.
My favorite moments of the day were the transitions. The moments of dancing and entertaining the kids while we waited for our next transfer. The walks from the bus stop to our many destinations that day. The moment Oliver fell asleep nursing, and the moment Penelope slept on my lap on the way back home.
It’s beautifully ironic that it was the transitions – of all things- what I loved most about that day, yet I can’t wait to pass the life transition I am in right now. I have to find beauty in that irony.
And so I go back to the song, the wheels on the bus go round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, and they do. But I like to think I have found an underlying message of perseverance in that song. In a metaphorical sense, with my return to work, the wheels of my life are going round and round, and I’m going to be making stops along the way, making transfers, trying to find the best way to go through this transition in my life, and I will persevere because well… the wheels go round and round, and so will I.
Edmonton is a great city. A perfect mixture of urban and country, and the river valley is hard to beat! Depending on whether you’re a city or a country person, Edmonton really has the best of both worlds.
Then I had children, got to know the city so much more, and now I REALLY love Edmonton as a city.
Whether it’s to find resources to make the early postpartum days easier, or finding things to do with the kids (that doesn’t require breaking the bank), Edmonton has so much to offer to parents of young children, and it really is such a great city to raise your kids in.
With a limited “going out budget” while on maternity leave, or on a single income as a stay-at-home parent, there is so much you can do with kids in Edmonton, and it’s affordable and available to all families.
As I reminisce on my years at home with the kids, all I am left with is feeling grateful for the wonderful time I spent with them, and for being able to raise them in such a great city.
And so below I share my list on how I had the best Stay-at-home Motherhood / Maternity Leave Days in Edmonton (but a lot could apply to your city too!)
Set your intention to have the MOST AWESOME stay-at-home parenthood/ maternity leave. I’ve said this before in my “Two under Two” post, and I really believe it. Attitude is everything. Whether you’re at home with your child(ren) for a year, two, three…etc, set your intention to have the fullest, most fun, and awesome days, and you WILL!
Join a Mommy Group. When Penelope was 6 months old, I joined a mommy group through Mommy Connections, a program that does exactly that: connect moms with other moms and programs in your community. I met a wonderful group of mamas, and I still see them today… 2+ years later! Having a mommy community is so wonderful for support, play dates, or for text messaging back and forth on the hard mama days. Definitely a must for a happier maternity leave or stay-at-home motherhood.
Go to Mommy & Baby Yoga Classes. I was so happy to have found this Mommy and Baby Yoga Class run by Hapie Yoga & Fitness and did the program with both my kids. It was such a great way to make some time to relax, to work on strengthening my core and pelvic strength after baby (which is something we don’t make enough time for, but should!), and an awesome way to meet new mama and babies. I love that this was part of our postpartum experience and definitely recommend it! New sessions starting January 16th!
Go to La Leche League Meetings. I started going to La Leche League meetings after my second was born, and as a breastfeeding mother (twice), these meetings were invaluable when it came to education, community and support with my breastfeeding journey. For more information on when and where their next meeting is in the city, visit their wesbite https://www.lllc.ca/find-group-alberta
Follow Box Social Events.One of the best things I learnt about while on maternity leave, especially with an energetic toddler and a baby, is Box Social Events. They organize kid friendly events all over the city, their events are ah-mazing, and most of them at no cost to the public! The kids and I have enjoyed so many great ones this summer and it’s definitely a huge part to why my stay-at-home mom days were so awesome.
Visit the outdoor playgrounds around the city. It’s very easy to get in the habit of visiting the same outdoor playground often, and so I gave myself a challenge to try and visit as many outdoor playgrounds in the city with the kids. And there are some great ones! Fun and budget friendly, plus outdoor time for the kids; all around win! A list of great outdoor play grounds by Just Another Edmonton Mommy here.
Visit the Edmonton Riverboat. Perhaps I’m biased because we got married there, but the Edmonton Riverboat experience is truly beautiful. A gorgeous view of downtown Edmonton and the River Valley, and the newly renovated boat is gorgeous!
Visit the Edmonton Public Library often. We love the Edmonton Public Library and have attended so many of their Baby and Toddler activities, and the kids love it! EPL provides a “Welcome Baby” package when you get your baby his or her first library card. You receive a bag, a book, and helpful information about the programs that the library offers children and parents, perfect for new mamas! And for any bilingual mamas like me, EPL is a great resource. More info on early literacy for bilingual babies here.
Visit the Edmonton High Level Bridge Streetcar. I’ve lived in Edmonton for 10 years, and only visited the Street Car after having kids because it seemed like it would be something fun to do- and it was! Round trip fare is $6 per adult, and children under 5 ride for FREE! A great way to explore your city, learn about it’s history, and the kids loved it. Check out their website for more info.
Learn through play at home. We have loved following Live it All In for inspiration on activities you can do at home with the kids using materials you already have, or that are easy to get. The kids not only have fun, they learn in the process too. One of our favorites ones for letter matching here .
Go to the Pub…with your kids. Because sometimes, it’s nice not to have to go to a “kid friendly restaurant” every time you want to have a family dinner out. Edmomton has a great list of kid friendly pubs in Edmonton here , and it was actually through that post that I found her blog! We have enjoyed some lovely family lunches/dinners in some of these pubs, and, if someone judges you for drinking a beer while holding a baby, tell them it helps with milk production, ha!
Go on family bike rides. Edmonton is a great city when it comes to bike trails, and though we may not be able to bike all year round, the beauty of the trails make up for it when we are able to go on them. Edmonton has so many bike/multi use trails around city and it’s such a fun, healthy and inexpensive activity to do with the kids. A map of Edmonton bike trails here.
Spend afternoons picnicking in your backyard. I found so much beauty in having simple afternoons like this one with the kids in our backyard. As moms, we put a lot of pressure ourselves to feel like we have to have a full itinerary for our children e v e r y d a y – and we just don’t. Some of the best afternoons the kids and I have had, have been picnicking in our backyard, and having the most special times doing nothing special.
Explore your city and find the most unexpected places. One of our most memorable moments from this summer was discovering Cotton Tail Corner , a clothing optional beachnear Edmonton. We went on a hike, stumbled upon it and made an afternoon of it. Goes to show there is always something new to find in your city, you just need to go and explore!
Explore the city with Edmonton Transit Service.Exploring the city using Public transit is often. The day is more intentional, not as hurried, and it makes for a day full of adventure – like a day we had this past winter, read more here – ALSO, children under 12 years old travel for FREE!
Take pictures in front of the murals in your city. During the walks the children and I would take, we found so many cool murals, and so we made it a thing to find more. Outdoor family time, exploring your city AND Instagram worthy shots – hashtag win!
Make a nature theme mobile. Using materials you can find outside, make a nature theme mobile with the kids. How to here.
Relax, Read and find Inspiration. Pick up a copy of YEG Inspired magazine at various locations around the city, and find wonderful local inspiration and resources for parents.
Break the rules. As a stay at home parent, it’s very easy to burnout when there is so much pressure to do everything perfectly and “by the rules”. So don’t. Give yourself a break, and break the rules. Have breakfast for lunch one day. Have a pj’s and movie day with the kids. Do whatever feels right for that day, when you need it.
Follow Alberta Mamas.If you’re a parent in Alberta, you need to follow Alberta Mamas. A great resource of information for parents across the province. Whether you want camping tips, ways to encourage your kids to read , or want to know how host a clothing swap (a must for all mamas!), Alberta Mamas has you covered!
My list could go on forever, and I’ve probably missed a few things, but I end with one last one.
ENJOY. The days may be long sometimes, but the years are short. The years with my babies have really flown by, and though I feel I’ve lived every moment intentionally, I already miss the time we spent together. So, slow down. Enjoy your babies, watch them play and laugh. Give them that extra hug and cuddle, and enjoy the days together.
My sweet little Oliver, you turned one years old this weekend. One year since I held you on my chest for the firs time, one year since I fell in love with you.
To you, it was just another day, but you were so happy to have the people you love most all together to celebrate you. Like always when around crowds, you were shy at first, not leaving mommy’s lap, but then you were going from arm to arm, playing with your little friends and having a wonderful time.
You weren’t messy eating your cake, barely getting any of it around your mouth, which I kind of wish you had haha. When your nap time came, you went down easily, but had the biggest smile on your face when you woke up to guests still here.
Of all the things you got on your birthday, you enjoyed the balloons the most. You walked around with them, shook them, and laughed at them.
My sweet boy, how proud I am of the little person you are and are becoming. You are kind, you are loving, and you are loyal. You always reciprocate double the love that you receive, and the warmth in your hugs and kisses are something I hold so so dear.
You are mama’s boy, which I adore, but you love your Daddy and sister so much. Your sister is your teacher and your friend, and watching you two grow up together has been my biggest gift.
Of all the things I love most about you right now, are when you are on one side of the room, get up and walk towards me with your sort of still wobbly walk, and give me the biggest hugs and drooly kisses. Wouldn’t change it for the world <3
The best kind of memories, I think, are the ones you remember when you hear a song, when you smell a certain smell, or from the sensation on your fingers as you run them through an embroidery a loved one made for you. Tangible memories.
During the holiday season, a time when tangible is a very common theme, especially with gift giving, the idea of creating tangible memories stuck with me. Finding a way to make tangible something that my children associate to an experience or memory, rather than a gift.
With this craft, I hope I am creating moments with my children that they will remember whenever they touch or see a pine branch.
Pine Branches that we foraged during our walks
Flour and Glitter
The older Penelope gets, the more impressed I am by how well she is able to do crafts. On her own, she poured some flour and glitter onto a baking pan and mixed it. She was taking her craft very seriously, it was so endearing to watch. In the meantime, I cut a few pine branches and coated them with a thin layer of glue. She then pressed them against the flour mix and the result was quite beautiful. The flour mix creates a beautiful simulation of snow that looked quite magical. Once the glue dried, I grouped the branches into similar size lengths and by overlapping them, created the shape of a wreath. I secured the branches to one another using a hot glue gun, and mixed the greens with, and without the flour mix coat, together.
Once completed, I ran some ribbon through them, and they were ready to hang as decor for the holidays.
A fun and easy activity to do with the kids, and they turned out so beautiful!