Gifts for the New Reader

Tis the season to read, spell, and write, or it is for my little kindergartner. This is the first Christmas BeBe will unwrap and read a book by herself, and I’m caught up in the excitement of finding books for her. Besides books, I’m searching for spelling games and writing gifts that will be fun on snowy days. I’m still narrowing down my gift list for her, but here are some of the options:



1) It’s Christmas David! – This book is mostly pictures but has a few basic sight words she should be able to read by herself. She and I both love these books.

2) Christmas with Morris and Boris   –  These books have funny characters and kindergarten humor, and our local second -hand bookstore hosts a kids’ book club with this series. This will be the first year she can join in.

3) Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas – This series has simple stories, but they hold her interest because BeBe loves animals, especially dogs.

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My Favorite Popsicle Recipes

I’ve written before about what it’s like to have a picky eater, and I’ve even shared some of my favorite “recipes” and tips. One of my favorite meal hacks is to make up a batch of (healthy) popsicles to feed Little Cotton Candy. For some reason, anything in popsicle form is fun and delicious, and I’ve never seen him turn down a homemade pop. I thought I would share some of my favorite popsicle recipes I’ve made for Little CC. Most are healthy enough to eat for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Bonus: Popsicles are so great to grab when we’re running late for school. As long as you don’t mind the risk of drips, they’re pretty easy to eat in the car! (And yes, we eat these in the winter, too. It helps that it doesn’t get THAT cold in central Texas.)

Coconut Lime (adapted from Rick Bayless). This one is my favorite popsicle recipe that I’ve ever made. It does involve some added sugar so it might not be ideal for breakfast or snacks if you’re trying to limit your kiddo’s sugar intake. (I also think it would make an amazing grownup treat if you added a bit of regular or coconut rum.)

lime pops


  • 2 14-ounce cans of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 lime (juice + zest)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into your pop molds and freeze for 6+ hours.

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Nativities for Little Ones

As a child, I remember placing our small, plastic nativity scene at the foot of the tree as the final touch for our holiday decorations. I would stare at the tiny figures and ask my parents who they were and what they were doing at Jesus’ birth. When we decorated for StarCakes’ first Christmas, I noticed that we didn’t have a nativity scene to place at the foot of our tree. I searched for one that was toddler-friendly, but they always came up short – either being too big, easily breakable or had too many tiny parts.

We were gifted a hand-carved, wooden nativity set and a light-up nativity scene from the Philippines. But both of these sets are not suitable for playing and while the Cheesecake kids know this, GemCakes still loves to rearrange the figures and is in awe of the lights in our light-up nativity. Ideally, I would like to have a play nativity set for the kids to help them better understand the meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate it as a Catholic family.

DSC_0051GemCakes loves watching the lights change color on our light-up nativity.

StarCakes is getting more observant and curious of what we do and often questions why we do things. When we displayed our nativity scene this year he asked who the people were and what they were doing (sounds like someone I know!). He’s been asking questions about Jesus during mass and at church so might be time to share the Christmas story with him. Here are some of my favorite nativity scenes and stories about Jesus’ birth for toddlers.

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Things I Love about Threenagers

Before I had kids, I heard a lot about the Terrible Twos. When Addie started getting close to her second birthday, I braced myself for the inevitable tidalwave of moods, tantrums, and stubbornness coming my way. To my great surprise, two was….okay. Sure we had our moments, but in general Addie was an easy going, sweet, and FUN toddler. Was our first attempt at potty training a nightmare? Yes. Yes it was. Was it mostly the result of my complete unwillingness to deviate from my predetermined plan for even one iota? Also yes. The next month, when we tried again (this time with Dad at the helm) it was mostly smooth sailing. She was day and night trained within a week, and that was that.

Before I knew it, my baby turned into a little kid. Diapers were a distant memory, she slept in her big girl bed, ate basically anything we put in front of her, and was pretty great at following rules. I smugly congratulated myself on navigating the terrible twos, and figured that it only got easier from here on out.

I look back at that time, and just think, “Oh you sweet summer child, you have no idea what is around the corner.”

Celebrating Addie’s third birthday: we had no idea what was around the corner.

A threenager was coming, after all. Three brought with it mood swings, an astonishing amount of tears, and the tendency to turn even the most mundane request into a ten-minute long discussion/negotiation. Over the last six months, I’ve caught myself getting short-tempered and impatient. I’ve used “because I said so” a really impressive number of times. I’ve learned that there are some battles worth fighting, and others that aren’t worth my time. But surprisingly, I’ve learned something else: despite its challenges, three is my favorite age so far.

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Cereal Family Christmas Movies

I love Christmas. I can’t help it. The season, the weather, the decorations, the general merriment. I just love it all. One of my favorite things to do during this season is to watch Christmas movies with my kids. But I have a little different list than your typical holiday movie list, and this is mostly because my parents had some obscure movies we watched when I was a kid, and now these movies mean holidays to me.


Holiday Inn – I can’t say enough about this movie. If you have seen White Christmas you will be familiar with the set and the actors because this was a precursor to White Christmas. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and is about a dancer who decides to quit his life and move to a farm. He quickly learns that the farm life is not for him and decides to turn the farm into a venue that is only open on holidays, hence Holiday Inn. There is a ton of great music and the scenery is amazing, especially the dresses. As a word of warning, there is a really offensive scene that I fast forward over, so be prepared for that. It is a movie that makes me nostalgic and happy and I look forward to watching it each year.

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Motherhood and Identity

I found out over Thanksgiving I am going to become an aunt; Mr. Chocolate’s brother and his wife are expecting! The news was quite a buzz for the family, and as silly as it might seem it didn’t even dawn on me that this would mean I would become an aunt; I was concentrating more on the idea that my kids would have a cousin to play with. The concept of siblings is still kind of new for me since I am an only child, but after realizing I am about to become an aunt, I got rather excited about the idea. This will be the first kid, not born from me, to enter our family and I am excited at the idea of being able to dote on a baby but also get to hand it back when it fusses. Also, I think being an aunt means that I get to be a little bit more relaxed and fun in some ways other than being a parent.

When Mr. Chocolate and I got home that night I immediately started to look online at all the adorable new baby things. I wanted to get baby something for Christmas and was wondering if I should get my sister-in-law something to celebrate this new exciting point in her life, when I realized what I was doing. My sister-in-law is a set designer for plays, an accomplished artist, a wine lover, loves restoring furniture, adores baking, and so much more, and here I was erasing all of that simply because she was pregnant and going to become a mother. My sister-in-law is going to become a mother, but that didn’t mean she had to lose all of herself as well.

Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I never had a great relationship with my parents and my family was small. My mother was and is a workaholic to this day, and I wanted to have things I didn’t have as a child like a parent to greet me when I got off the bus and siblings to play with all day long. So I dreamt of the day I could be at home with my own children. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mother and that was the primary focus of my life growing up. After college, I worked in several offices but never felt like I was committed to a certain career path. Eventually, I ended up becoming a nanny which suited me much better, but isn’t what I would classify as a career as well. As our family grew, I slowly transitioned out of even babysitting and became what I had always wanted to be, a stay at home mom.

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Favorite Things Holiday Party!

A couple years ago, I started a holiday tradition with a group of moms. Every Christmas season, we get together with just the mamas and enjoy wine, dinner, treats and some candlelit conversations. At some point, we start to share 3 of our “favorite things” that were under $10. These items can be anything you want, such as makeup, face masks, cute pens, lotions, etc. The fun part is trying to think of something unique! We start by putting everyone’s name in a hat 3 times. Then everyone draws 3 names. If you pick your own, obviously put it back. Then you go around the circle, explain your “favorite thing” and then give them away to the 3 people’s names you drew. It’s a great way to tell a little bit about yourself and also share with other moms. It also works well in groups where you may not know the people too well.

Last year, I got some really interesting stuff! I found out that I really like temporary tattoos and that there are such things like a roll up hat you can tote around everywhere. I gave away 3 mini travel size mascaras last year but this year, I chose 2 small gifts because it was so hard to decide!

Being a mom means not having much time to look your best. So I rely on fast drying nail polish so that I can get in a quick layer and be able to do other stuff. I got the Sally Hansen brand because that’s all I could get at a last moment’s notice (truly a mom over here), but my favorite brand is called Seche Vite, and it’s available on Amazon. It dries your nails so fast! I would say after about 2-3 minutes, you can totally use your hands to do anything you want and not ruin your nails.


My second “favorite things” are these under-eye patches I also got from Amazon. So cheap and they work so well if you have an event! I leave them under my tired eyes for about 20 minutes and it definitely plumps up the under-eye area.

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