Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

Like many others, I'm unhappy with the fact that so many businesses have pushed Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day. I always enjoyed those two days fully, but, when forced to choose, Thanksgiving will always trump Black Friday for me.

We decided not to let it ruin our fun, so we went out as normal (for us) early on Black Friday. The first stop on our list was JC Penney for the free miniature snow globe. They opened sometime on Thanksgiving evening, but they advertised the snow globes would be given away at 4am on Black Friday. We got there at 3:45am, and the giveaway was in full swing! We got our snow globe and coupon and ran back to the car to Cabela's. Cabela's is new to Denver. This is their first Black Friday here! Their ad said they would be giving away free prizes to the first 600 people there before 5am. We pulled up at 3:55, and the line was long. Phuong and Aminta sprang from the car to the line while I went to park. The line was insane! It completely wrapped around the large store. Phuong held our place in line while Aminta and I went to count. Some parts were dark, but we estimated that we were about number #550 in line. We worried that wouldn't be good enough, as some people hold spots for family & friends to warm up in the car or to go use the restroom or get coffee or whatever. Still, at 4am, we had nothing better to do and decided to wait and see if we made it. At 5am, someone came around with a counter and told us we were about number #650. We wouldn't get a door prize. We decided the store would be way too packed to enjoy without the free gift incentive, so we left and went to Sports Authority.

Oops, I almost forgot. Here are Phuong & Aminta at Cabela's! They're going to kill me for this photo. I told them to look cold & miserable. Hehe.

Sports Authority did a double opening. They did a gift card giveaway on Thanksgiving evening, which I didn't go to, but they had another scheduled for 6am on Black Friday. We got there at about 5:20am, and there were just 2 people in line. The first 80 customers got a free gift card. When the doors opened, there were about 20 people in line. I won free $10--which I used to get some gifts for Oliver--and so did Phuong and Aminta's aunt. Aminta and her mom each won $25! We took our time shopping. It was about 6:30am when I went to check out. There was still an employee at the door, waiting to give out gift cards. I chatted with her for a minute, and she told me the other stores in Denver had given their gift cards away. She said the $500 gift card still hadn't been given out... implying it was one of the cards in her hand. Holy cow! I called Andrew and my parents and pleaded with them to go to Sports Authority. It's like a half mile from the house. I tried every trick in the book, including using birthday guilt (Black Friday landed on my birthday this year). They weren't having it. I couldn't believe they would pass up the opportunity. If they'd gone, I bet they had about a 1/20 chance of getting $500. Those party poopers.

From Sports Authority, we went to World Market. They had free samples of coffee and cookies, and they were also giving away free coffee mugs to the first 100 customers (we all got one!). After that, we went to Park Meadows Mall. We just missed their free pancake breakfast, but we entered their sweepstakes. Aminta ended up winning an American Girl pet set and book, and her aunt won a nice water bottle! We drove over to Furniture Row, as they were giving away free pillows to the first 50 customers there at 8am. The line was surprisingly long for it! I'd say there were about 20 people in line. Imagine our surprise when the doors opened, and there were no pillows or numbers or anything. An employee told us we'd have to go down to the Denver Mattress area, so about a dozen of us trotted off to make sure we got our free pillows.

Phuong is very excited about her free pillow.

We then went to Costco to get our free cookbook. They give out a cookbook to members every year on Black Friday. There was a Minnie Mouse book there that I knew Oliver would love. Phuong got it for me, and, in exchange, I gave her my free $10 coupon to Kohl's, which she used to get a Baby's 1st Christmas ornament. So, I indirectly got a free book from Costco for Oliver!

Stein Mart had a cool giveaway this year, too. I'd never been to a Stein Mart before. Their ad in the Thanksgiving paper was a scratch card. It said to bring in the unscratched card on Black Friday before noon, and an employee would scratch it off to reveal a free $10, $25, $50, or $100 gift. Mine was valued at $10. I picked out a wooden car toy for Jo that was originally $15 but 30% off, making it $10.50. So, i got a nice, wooden toy for under a dollar!

Here is my final loot from Black Friday, minus the free cookbook from Costco that I forgot to photograph. Everything below cost me about $2 total. Not bad!

Of course, we also can't forget about Small Business Saturday! I was a little disappointed that American Express changed the incentive from a $25 statement credit to $10, but I guess we can't complain about free money. Andrew went to a local toy shop and got a $10 board book about monsters that Jo will love. After the credit, it's practically free. I went to Ace Hardware and picked out little stocking stuffers for my siblings. After my credit, they're practically free, too!

Not a bad haul for the first round of Christmas shopping, ey?

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving! I'm writing this post two weeks after the actual holiday. For reasons I won't get into just yet, we've been left with very little down time. So, I've been neglecting my blog big time!

Thanksgiving was very small and quiet. Andrew's parents drove to Utah to spend the holiday with my brother-in-law and his family. It's Paisley's first Thanksgiving! Andrew's great-aunt and great-uncle had reservations at a restaurant and plans for dessert with neighbors. My brother and sister had their own plans for the day. That left our family of four plus my parents. We had a Thanksgiving of six. My mom roasted a turkey for them and the kids. She made turkey stuffing and vegetarian stuffing. I worked on green bean casserole and mashed potatoes. The day before, Oliver and I made pies. Everyone had a different request for pie! My dad wanted banana cream, my mom always likes cherry, and Andrew asked for an autumn cheesecake. I felt like it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, so--long story short--we ended up with four full-sized desserts for our small group.

Our holiday was cozy and perfect. Due to an early morning run with my mom and a big dinner, I couldn't even stay awake after dessert and fell asleep promptly at 7pm.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Oliver & Jo's 1st Snowman

In contrast to our photos in the leaves, here's the family playing in the snow! The first set is from one of our first snows of the season, November 21. Jo wanted to help Oliver and me shovel.

A couple of days ago, Andrew took the kids out to build a snowman. It was the kids' first snowman! The snowman is kind of creepy. My mom went out and joined in on the fun. Oliver had a blast, and Jo was hilarious & adorable in her snowsuit.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Leaf Piles

I've been sick and not keeping up with this blog at all! The week of Jo's birthday, we were all so sick with a stomach bug. As we got over that, we had runny noses and sore throats that kept on going and going! Mine got worse, and then I was tossing and turning all Tuesday night with a high fever and aches & pains. All I can hope for is that we're getting exposed to all of the seasonal viruses now, and we'll be happy & healthy for the rest of the season!

Here are some photos and a video of us playing in the leaves on November 1. All of the leaves are off the tree now. I had thought about doing a toddler activity post regarding just letting little ones have fun outside in the leaves, but I was too sick to execute it (and now it's too late!). Giving kids time to just explore and play outside is so good for them, though. I usually try to get my kids outside (almost) daily, but that definitely hasn't been happening this month at all. We are cooped up with cabin fever!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jo Turns Two!

My baby turned two! Because we've been so sick all week, her birthday photos and update are two days late. This is the story of Jo's life. Being the baby in the family, she has to go along with everything! She's very easy going and puts up being shuffled around when we head to all of Oliver's activities and classes. Joanna hasn't really taken classes herself yet. It seemed so important to get Oliver involved in classes as a little one, but that was because he got almost no socialization with other kids at home. Jo has Oliver. Sometimes, they are best friends. Other times, they aren't. Oliver likes to act as Jo's parent, and, sometimes, Jo just wants him to leave her alone.

Joanna is very talkative and verbal. There would be no possible way to try to keep track of how many words she speaks. Hundreds, if not thousands. She has been speaking in two-word phrases from about 18 months old, and she sings numerous songs like the ABCs and "Hickory Dickory Dock" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." It floors me how verbal she is.

She really, really loves music videos, just like Oliver did. She comes up to us all the time and asks for videos by name, "Monsters? Monster video?" or "Ernie? Elmo? Grover? Sesame Street?" We have to really work at limiting her screen time. Books work well to redirect her. Jo loves all of her Sesame Street books, but her favorite book is called, "Once Upon a Potty."

Speaking of potties, Jo is somewhat potty trained. During the day, at home, I keep her pants off, and she almost always does her business in the potty. She cheers for herself when she goes. She doesn't stay dry over nap time yet. I still have to put her in diapers when we go out. I think she associates having pants on with having a diaper because, if I put her pants on at home, she then has an accident. She toddles up to me and says, "Uh-oh, I had an accident." It's adorable.

Jo gets away with a lot because she's just so funny. She'll walk up to Oliver's bucket of pasta and throw it everywhere while yelling, "IT'S A MESS!" and all I can do is laugh. I feel like we're a lot easier on her than we were with Oliver, but she also lacks all the one-on-one time that Oliver got as a little one. I think that's a big part of the reason that she's not completely potty trained. We always have to go out and do something, and so we stick her in a diaper and head out.

Jo is still babied a lot and carried a lot. She loves to cuddle. One of her favorite ways of asking to cuddle is to walk up to one of us, lift her arms up, and coo, "Oooooh, baby girl!" I know I need to be better about encouraging her to head off on her own and play, but it's hard doing that, knowing she's my last little baby.

A funny trait about Jo is she's very organized. She enjoys putting stuff away, stacking things, and lining stuff up perfectly. She received blocks as a birthday gift from Grandma Judy and Grandpa Larry, and she spends probably an hour a day stacking them and lining them up.

I let my kids choose for themselves what kind of activities they like. For example, Oliver loves baking and all things electric (appliances, tools, etc). Joanna loves nature and spooky things. She loves dirt and rocks. Over Halloween, we got really into stuff like monsters, pumpkins, and spiders. She squeals with glee at a picture of a spider. In fact, when she plays with her foam letters, she gets them all right... but she calls the letter S a "spider." Currently, one of her favorite things to hold around the house is a package of Kraft Mac & Cheese with a picture of a monster on it (from the "Monsters University" movie). She was thrilled every time we went to the grocery store because they had banners of spiders hanging from the ceiling for Halloween.

Animal sounds are another favorite of Jo's. She enjoys picking up each of her stuffed animals and making their sound. The cutest is when she trumpets for the elephant. She's getting into some pretend play now, and she has her stuffed animals help eat her food, and sometimes they give her or each other kisses. As you can tell from the photos above, her fox is still her most beloved treasure. We found the fox after ordering a replacement a few months ago. She's very happy to have her friend with her, especially at nap time.

We still haven't even entertained the idea of switching her to a toddler bed. She's never tried to climb out of her crib, so we'll probably wait until we get relocated and acclimated to a permanent home.

At two years old, here are a list of Jo's likes and dislikes:

*Her stuffed animal, Box the Fox
*Her book, Once Upon a Potty, with Prudence
*Ernie (from Sesame Street)
*pine cones
*helping Oliver push the button on the coffee grinder
*closing the garage door when Grandma Judy leaves in the morning
*getting a treat after she goes potty
*Thomas (the train)
*children's music videos
*seeing other babies around
*stuffed animals
*candles (even the LED kind)

*Getting food on her hands
*Spilling water/milk on her clothes
*Being told, "No."
*When Oliver plays with her blocks
*Public toilets

Friday, November 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sick Jo!

I will have to do a full birthday update for Jo this weekend. Our whole household has been really sick this week. I think this is the sickest we've ever been! Thankfully, we finally seem to be on the upswing tonight. I was much too sick to take photos of Jo today, and she was too crabby from feeling sick to have had any fun with pictures, anyway. Andrew had to come home from work to watch the kids because I could barely move, and he took them outside for a peanut butter and jelly picnic. Then, he and the kids made frosting for cupcakes. Jo was too sick for a sandwich, but she somehow managed a birthday cupcake!

Happy Second Birthday, Joanna!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crafting with the Kids: Leaf & Wax Paper Lanterns

The kids and I decided to try out a fun project recommended in my MOMS Club newsletter this month. We made lanterns using leaves and wax paper!


The best part of the project was collecting leaves. We went out front and filled our jack-o-lantern bucket! Both kids really had fun doing this step, and we ended up with a whole lot of leaves.

Once we were finished collecting our leaves, we went inside. Oliver helped me sort through them, and we chose the best ones. I set up an ironing board and an iron (careful with little ones around!). Next, I laid out a sheet of wax paper. I couldn't figure out which side was waxed and which side wasn't. I tried to scratch each side, but I was stumped. Perhaps both sides of my wax paper were coated because that's what it seemed like to me! Anyway, the leaves I had were pretty big, so rather than folding the paper down in half, I just used two sheets and sandwiched the leaves inside. I set a dish towel on top and ironed the whole thing for a few minutes.

After that, I used some double-sided tape to stick the sides together, creating a tube. The kids placed some flameless LED candles inside, and--voila!--we had our lanterns.

Bonus video of the kids:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Painted Pottery: A Hand Print Keepsake for Thanksgiving

Last year, I found such a cute idea on Pinterest. I copied it exactly because it was too cute a perfect! I made this Halloween plate using Jo's footprints. Well, I got the idea to do something similar using the kids' hand prints. I meant to make a plate last year for Thanksgiving but lost track of time. I finally got around to making it now. So, here it is, my new, Thanksgiving turkey hand print plate! The print on the left is Oliver's, and the print on the right is Jo's. Those paint-your-own-pottery places are so fun.