Gifts that Keep on Giving

As we get older the more we realize that for the most part, we and our friends and family members have all they NEED, so gift giving can get a little more creative. And what better way to spend money on things that not only benefit the recipient, but also someone else along the line!

So, here's a list of places we've found that we love supporting while also gift giving.

1. Our favorite (and local!) business is Thistle Farms.

Thistle farms sells awesome, totally natural body products, like body wash, body butter, bath salts, and more, like coffee, mugs, and candles. But, the part that's even better than the quality is that these products are made by "women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction, and all proceeds directly support their efforts to sustain independent, healthy lives." We love these products and being able to support the healing process of these women!

2. Kiva.org

If you haven't heard of Kiva.org yet, I'm so excited to share it with you! When you give a Kiva donation, you are providing a small micro-loan to people all over the world to help start a business of their own! The awesome thing is that you get to choose exactly who you give a loan to and you get to see their pictures and hear about what they would use the loan for. And because it's a loan and they have really high rates of payback, you will eventually get your money back and then you can invest that money back in someone else!

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DIY Time Capsule Ornament

My good friend Minhee helped me plan Charlie's birthday party, and she came up with the idea to let the kids make their own polaroid ornaments as favors. Each kid had a mini polaroid taken of themself, and then put it inside their ornament and filled it with fun little bobbles.

I thought this would also be a great family project to do each Christmas as a DIY time capsule ornament. You could fill an ornament with a family picture, little trinkets that represent each person or what happened to them that year, and even a little note! I can imagine how much fun it'll be to make these every year and reminisce on ones from years past when you pull them out each Christmas.

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Present for Toddlers that Hate toys

My toddler hates toys. It’s not due to a lack of variety or a lack of quality. He has toy shelves in every room loaded with all kinds of activities that encourage open-ended imaginative play. He just chooses to completely ignore them, or on rare occasions, he might dump them all on the ground or throw them at the dog. That huge container of Duplo blocks? No interest unless it’s chucking them at the sliding glass door. The train table and railroad set? A $200 birthday present that’s gotten 30 minutes of play in the last month.

What does he like? Anything that’s not his. If it’s a real thing adults use, he’s interested. For example, my dustbuster and big vacuum are the toys of the week as he obsessively sucks up goldfish crackers and dog food. He digs them because they work and aren’t just for pretend. Mr. Tricycle’s 100 piece socket set or all the screws I need to assemble the new crib? Baby crack for this kid - he can’t get enough. Keep in mind he has an awesome toddler tool bench with all kinds of pretend tools, but he’d much rather figure out how my power drill works.

So what the heck do we buy him for Christmas? I can’t just skip presents all together (I love gift giving, and he loves opening things), but I don’t want to buy the stuff advertised on TV or in the Sunday paper as I know he won’t play with it. So here’s my list of suggestions for toddlers that hate toys.

1. Gardening Tools -  When we’re outside, the Trikester loves to play with our shovels and dig in the dirt. I’m always fighting with him for a turn with the tool, so if he has his own I won’t have to share.

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As we close out this year, we have one more thing to celebrate and be grateful for in the Chocolate home -- Juliet completed her last physical therapy session in Early Intervention and was dismissed from that program this month! She is still in Early Intervention for developmental, since she is still too young to qualify for speech therapy.  But the physical therapy part of her intervention is now finished. We are so proud of our little girl and this big accomplishment!

It's hard to believe that a mere 9 months previous we were in the doctor's office hearing those words, failure to thrive. She was trailing behind on many milestones; she was barely able to sit upright and still needed to tripod (use her hands for support). Fast forward to now and in her last physical therapy session she ran around the house, climbed up and slid down the stairs, scaled the ottoman multiple times, and in general moved around with the grace and adorableness of an eighteen-month-old baby.

Since she started walking at fourteen months, Juliet has made huge strides in her gross motor development. She was always an active baby in the womb and I think once she got those legs underneath her she really caught her stride. She started to climb shortly after she started walking and has attempted to scale almost every piece of furniture we own. Her wobbly gait has gotten much steadier and she now can easily race after Drake when the two of them are playing. She had been climbing stairs easily for months before she could walk, and has taken us all by surprise with the speed she can climb, beating us to the top with ease.

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Gaga for Gold

I can't seem to get enough of gold lately. There's something about it that's fun but also tastefully feminine and it can also add a splash of sparkle and fun to an otherwise plain winter outfit. Whether you're in full-out gold or have little touches of gold added to your outfit, there's a way for everyone to embrace this glittering trend!

via Oscar de la Renta

Here are some of my favorite gold pieces (many of them on sale now!) -- they could even make great last minute presents for someone (or yourself)!

1) Gold Stripe Dress  |  2) Tulle Dress  |  3)  Lacy Dress  |  4) Strapless Dress

Gold Dresses: I adore these sparkling frocks...they'd make great holiday or New Years Eve party dresses!

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Telling the girls

As with our last adoption, we have very little time between when we matched and when we'll be bringing a baby home. This means that there is no time to withhold any of the information from the girls while the situation becomes more stable. We were going to have to tell them about the baby right away and get them prepared for a new sibling as soon as possible. As I mentioned in my last post about preparing an older sibling for adoption, I think this is more challenging without all the typical gradual onset cues of pregnancy.

When Mr. Jacks and I finally decided that we'd be moving forward on this adoption, we were excited to break the news to the girls. We waited until after telling the agency we would accept the placement. This gave us a little breathing room and time to prepare. Since September, each night we go around the dinner table and talk about our favorite part of the day and what we are grateful for that day. Focusing on the positive aspects of our days has shown to improve happiness and cognitive performance, so it makes us all feel good and the girls look forward to doing this every night. We decided that we would tell the girls about the baby during our gratitudes. That night I said that I was grateful for Mama S and that Mama S was having another baby who would be joining our family... and how grateful I would be that our family would be able to take care of that baby. It was actually a pretty emotional moment for me and I'm sure the girls could sense that.

I thought the girls might be pretty confused about me dropping this bomb in the middle of dinner, but they both got it right away. I think the most amazing part was Jack Jack's reaction. Her jaw kind of dropped and she asked, "This baby is growing in Mama S's tummy just like me??!!" I imagine she felt really proud and confident in that moment. She really understood that her new sibling would share a special connection with her. Little Jacks immediately peppered us with a ton of questions about the adoption and the baby. I wish I had videotaped the whole event so I could re-live the excitement around that dinner table!

We quickly realized that telling the girls isn't just a one time event, but an ongoing process. They have questions that come up daily and they both fantasize about what it will be like with a new baby (maybe) brother. Little Jacks seems to think that all babies enter families through adoption. We had a long talk about the difficult circumstances that often lead people to place their babies and how we know a lot of adopted children, but there are also a lot of children who stay with their birth families too. Jack Jack wants daily reassurance that baby is still going to come live with us. While my natural inclination would be to make a definitive statement that the baby will come live with us, the stark reality is that anything could happen between now and placement, including that birth mom could decide to parent. The only thing that I can really tell her for certain is that whether the baby lives with us or with birth mom, he will always be her baby (maybe) brother.

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18 Hanukkah Craft Projects for Kids

In our family, I like to take things one holiday at a time. There is no mention of Thanksgiving until the month of November, and I don't take out Hanukkah books until Thanksgiving is over.  So now that I'm officially ready for the holiday season to start, I thought I would share some of the super-cute craft projects that, while messy, look to be mostly toddler friendly. A few are options I will keep in my back pocket for a year or two, until Colin is able to focus on a project for longer than ten minutes and my patience threshold for glitter explosions is greater (if that ever happens).

Candy Dreidels  This looks simple and yummy enough to make an annual tradition.

Felt Dreidel Banner

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