Tag Archives: Holidays

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Only a few days left before Christmas!! I wanted to do one last post this year to share ideas for last-minute gifts. I was inspired by my brother who sent me an email last Friday, asking what kind of gifts our family members wanted for Christmas.

I decided to compile a list of “experience”   ideas for him, knowing full well that the Sweet Peas are already receiving lots of “stuff”,  along with the fact that shipping costs might be exorbitant to get anything tangible here by Christmas.  The neatest thing about experience gifts IMO is that we will get to talk about and remember the person who shared the gift every time we use them, and that is especially sweet in this case because he lives so far away.  Every time we use his experience gift is a time for him to be loved, appreciated and remembered fondly. What a sweet bonus!

I am sharing links to local Phoenix, Arizona venues.  If you are not local to Phoenix and you have a favorite place in your area, send me the link so I can share with others (sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com). Or, if you are local and your favorite family-friendly place isn’t on here, let me know what I’m missing – thank you in advance 🙂

Movie tickets – bonus when you can support a local movie house!
Harkins Theatres (We do not attend shows at AMC theaters since they allow open carry)

Trampoline Park or Bounce House
Jump Street (running a GC sale)
Pump It Up – party hosting and play time
Bounce U – party hosting

Family-friendly Arcade+Dining 
Main Event 
Dave & Busters

Phoenix Zoo
Zoo Lights
Sea Life Aquarium
Butterfly Wonderland
Desert Botanical Gardens

1512 Experience Gift

Science Museum 
Children’s Museum
idea Museum
Musical Instrument Museum
AZ Museum of Natural History
Phoenix Art Museum

Great Arizona Puppet Theater
Childsplay – this is a gift with options…Childsplay is a performance group that offers family-friendly theater experiences in Tempe, AZ. Childsplay also offers class experiences in the form of workshops that children can attend during school break in the school year or summer vacation.

Gift of Time
Plan a date when you take your nieces/nephews/grandchildren out to a state park or for a walk in a nature preserve.  Think about bringing some paper or art journals and art supplies.  Pack a picnic, bring a blanket, and just be with the children. It’s amazing what fresh air will do to inspire conversation and art.  If you are not used to speaking with children, HERE and HERE are a couple of lists of conversation starters. You can write out a few and put them in a jar for the children to pull out, or print them out and take them with you.  Notice that I *did not* write, “download them to your phone,” because our children see us with devices in our hands often enough. I feel like the gift of time is even richer when they get 100% face time with us.

I hope this list inspires some of you to do some literal “out of the box” holiday gifting this season. Wishing you and yours a blessed time this season, and most especially as we celebrate the beautiful gift of the Christ-child.  It’s a struggle with all the commercial focus, however, may Jesus find a way into your heart this season.  Happy holidays!!

There might be time to make THESE gifts with your children – check out four easy-peasy gifts we made with our Sweet Peas this year.

Holiday Gifting Ideas

Four Easy-Peasy DIY gifts for children by children

As we enter the season of gifting, I have been searching for gifts that can be made from items that are up-cycled from things around the house, or that easily made from inexpensive parts from the craft store. I chose to share these four from the gagillion ideas on the internet because children can help make these gifts.  We made all of the gifts pictured below, and *all* the Sweet Peas were able to help either prep them, or assemble them with supervision.

Here are my top four finds that we will be sharing this season:

Shape crayons
This is my favorite idea – how genius to make something out of all the broken crayons that the children do not like to use when they color.

Find the tutorial HERE

We got our molds for $.99 at IKEA. Be aware that once you use them to make crayons you will probably not be able to use them for anything else. I thought about lining them with olive oil to protect the silicone a little bit, however, since it was my first time making crayons I didn’t want to run the risk of ruining the gifts we were making.

We used our curious chef kitchen knives so the Sweet Peas could help break down the crayons. Puma and Charger helped cut the crayons, and Charger and Otter created the color blends by filling the molds.

Hand Kites

IMG_0119 (1) IMG_0122

This is an idea that we got from our preschool curriculum. It consists of wrapping long ribbons around rings.  I couldn’t find the wooden rings I wanted in time to order them for our party on Sunday, so I used metal rings, and rings I made out of gold pipe cleaners. Ordering information for 3” wooden rings HERE and 3” metal rings HERE.

I am a bit of a ribbon fiend, so I broke into my ribbon stash to make the hand kites we gave away at our Open House on Sunday.  To make ours, I used five cuts of 1-yard ribbons to make each hand kite.  I folded the ribbon in half and put it behind the ring.  The fold made a loop, and then we threaded the ends through the loop and pulled tight.  Some were Christmas themed and others were made from my favorite color: pink!!

The 3” ring is big enough so that it *is not* a choking hazard, and it is big enough to be worn around a wrist or an ankle. We have used them to dance along with music, wave to make different shapes, or playing follow the leader with different arm movements.  When made with the wooden rings, they naturally become a teether for curious little mouths.

The Sweet Peas were able to help cut the ribbon, and they helped create the ribbon combinations.  They could also help loop the ribbon around the ring – Puma has made these several times when we use them in our preschool playdates.

Hair Bows


Alligator or Hair Clips ~ Beauty supply or big box store
Bows: make your own, or buy some bows from the wedding section at the craft store.

This becomes a little more economical if you can purchase the bows with a coupon from the newspaper or the Internet. The silk flowers we used for the bows pictured above were 50% off for the holidays – yeah!  Puma helped put these together with a glue gun – we had a lot of fun chatting it up while we were making the bows.

Toy Car with Possibility


This is so clever!! All children seem to have a toy car around, so adding to their collection along with a roll of tape to create a roadway is genius!!


Find a printable card to go along with the car and the masking tape HERE from My Sister’s Suitcase. It’s a fun rhyme that explains how the car and the tape go together 🙂


Image Source: My Sister’s Suitcase – please visit their blog for the free printable!

The Sweet Peas can get involved from selecting the cars, cutting out the instructions, putting the gift pack together, to tying it all together with a ribbon since most of them are tying simple bows since they know how to tie their shoes.  Is the bow going to be as perfect as yours? Probably not…however, they have the pleasure of telling their friends, “I made this for you”. That is priceless.

I hope this gives you some easy and inexpensive ideas so that your children can gift to all the friends on their list.  We handed out the first three gifts pictured today at our holiday open house – they were all well-received.  We will be making the car/tape combos to have on hand if we have other opportunities to exchange gifts this season.

Happy holidays to all of you!!  We have a two more play dates to share with you this year, and then we will be taking a computer break until we start blogging again in 2016. Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season <3 <3 <3

Happy Holidays

First of all, let me start by wishing you a very happy holiday.  This year has been an adventure for us, including the decision to start a new blog.  We appreciate all of you who are reading, commenting, and sharing your journey with us, and allowing us to share with you.  You inspire us to do more and to be better.  Life on the green path is not always easy, it sure is worth it, though!!

We may be posting sporadically over the next two weeks.  Our husbands are going to be off of work, so we will be spending most of our time with them and our kiddos, instead of on the computer.  We will be posting pics over on Instagram, please feel free to follow @sweetpeafamilies and see how we are spending our holidays.  You can also follow us on twitter (I tweet early in the am before the Sweet Peas are awake) if you want to see green living – family related info we share.  Our twitter handle is @SweetPeaFams

I want to close out this year’s “official” posts with these tips to stay safe over the holiday season.  Here is an excerpt from an article entitled, “Be aware of latest product safety measures, recalls when shopping for toys, AG advises”:

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s, there were an estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2012. Of those injured, more than 70 percent were children younger than 15 years of age. [emphasis mine]

You can read the whole article at KyForward.com http://bit.ly/1c7DEmV.  The article lists several recently recalled children’s items, including a lamp that was sold at IKEA from 1999-2013.

And here is a safety list from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital:

Doctors at the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center at Cincinnati Children’s and theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics give the following tips on toy safety this holiday season:

  • Parents are encouraged to read all warning labels carefully before purchasing any item.
  • Consider a child’s age, interests, and skill levels when purchasing toys.
  • Look for toys with sturdy construction and avoid items with sharp edges and points.
  • Choking is one of the leading causes of toy-related death. Most of these deaths are attributed to toy balls, latex balloons and small magnets.
  • Small items can be risky for young children. For children under age three, choose toys that are at least 1 inch in diameter and 2 inches long, so they will not lodge in a child’s mouth or throat.
  • Beware of toy jewelry that may contain lead or cadmium. Both substances can be harmful to children who put items containing these chemicals into their mouths.
  • To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children (under age 10) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
  • Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • Parents should store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older kids’ toys away from young children.
  • Be extra cautious about toys that are handed down from friends and relatives that may not have warning labels. Inspect these toys carefully and use your best judgment.
  • Be careful with button batteries found in toys. If ingested they can become lodged in the esophagus causing serious injury and even death.
  • High power magnets can be found in some toys and if a child ingests more than one they can attract to one another and result in serious injury or even death. Seek medical attention if your child ingests one or more magnets.
  • Once the gifts are opened, it’s important to quickly discard plastic wrapping.

Read the whole article, Toy Safety Advice for Children During the Holidays at The Global Dispatch http://bit.ly/1jq8jBu

Remember the little tip that anything that fits through an empty toilet paper tube is a choking hazard.  Also be aware of staples, plastic fasteners, and stiff paper – all can scratch, puncture or cut your child.  We run the vacuum early and often when we are all together!

One last reminder that they don’t mention in either article: be sure to watch your children in the kitchen.  We have a “no play” expectation in our home.  They know that the kitchen is “HOT”, and that they need to walk and move slowly when they are in there.  We encourage you to designate someone in the group as the “kiddo wrangler”, and make sure that the Sweet Peas are clear while the stove is on, and the oven is opening and closing.  Make sure all knife handles are out of reach, and that there is nothing dangling on the edges that they will be curious about, or try to use to pull themselves up.

That being said, enjoy the holiday season with your Sweet Peas!  We will definitely be kicking off the New Year with a Holiday Wordless Wednesday – take your fun pics, and send your shares to sweetpeafamilies{at}gmail{dot}com.

Do you have any holiday safety tips to share?


Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Wishing you and your Sweet Peas a very blessed day.  We enjoyed doing lots of baking today!  I would love to read about some of your holiday traditions.  One of the beautiful things about growing a family is that it is never too late to start your own!  What did you do today?

Tuesday Tips: An Au Natural Holiday

No, we are not running around the house naked – although I admit, you will see an occasional  naked baby bottom streaking through the house!  The title refers to today’s blog post, written as part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering 🙂

Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Mothering!

This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlower, Every Breath I Take, I Thought I Knew Mama, African Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Incorporating Natural Into the Holidays. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

November 5, 2013: Incorporating Natural Into the Holidays
As we approach the holiday season, it is easy to get swept up in preparations and anticipation. How do you bring your natural lifestyle into the holidays with you? Whether it’s eco-friendly party prep, special treats that are also healthy, traditions that involve aspects of nature, or the natural techniques you use to stay calm and focused during the busy months ahead, we would love to read your stories and suggestions that focus on all that relates to a natural lifestyle during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

Ahh – the holidays.  I am fascinated that the season of celebrating “holy days” is also the time when we can get the most frazzled, the most frustrated, and the most hurried.  It is pretty much exactly the opposite of keeping things sacred and holy!

The most important thing I try to remember is the “reason for the season”.  Is it really important to have the best looking and tasting food, the prettiest house, the most presents; if along the way you have forgotten to be kind to others, most importantly, your children?  For a lot of us, striving for perfection layers on added stress, guilt and pressure.  By extension, we lash out at the little people who are still needing our attention outside of our huge lists of things we need to do to: shopping, cleaning, preparing, hosting…those lists go on and on and on.

There are several things I have learned along the way that help me to be more intentional and peaceful during the season of hustle and bustle.

1. Breathe.  That simple act can make a simple and profound difference.  Before I don my cape, I aim to take five deep breaths as I start the day, reflecting on the intention of that day.  I no longer carve out time for a full yoga practice in the morning…now I simply use the deep breathing techniques I learned, and I review my mantras.  I want to be sure that Peaceful Mama shows up for my kids this day, not the Crazy Mama who yells her way across the day.

2. Flower Essences.  I can’t say enough about these amazing Lotus Wei elixirs.  We discovered them a few years ago and we will be forever customers.  I keep them next to our bathroom sink so that I can breathe in peace, love and joy every time I wash my hands.  A.Ma.Zing.BLOG lotus photo

3. Simplify.  I read an article this summer that talked about what kiddos remember the most about summer vacation: ice cream and the beach.  What?! That’s easy!  It’s so easy to discount the simple things while we focus on “going” and “doing”.

I think this concept of simplicity is perfect to apply to the holiday season as well.  Sit down with your partner and identify what it is you want your children to remember about the holidays.  Better yet, ask them what their favorite part of the season is, and see if you can incorporate it as often as possible into your days.

Things to consider if you want to simplify your list – how many events will you attend in a weekend?  How can you plan your days so that you do things with your children, instead of for your children?  Do you have family traditions you want them to learn, and if so, how do they become a part of them instead of having them done to them?

4.  Let Go.  Things are transient…I don’t know if our children will remember how perfect I made things. I know they remember that I was frazzled and stressed through the holidays.  Instead of trying to do it all, we pinpoint and do the meaningful things that grow us as a person and as a family.

5. Have Fun.  When I listen to our children, it seems to me that we have forgotten one important aspect of childhood:  they are in it for the fun.  Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing their laughter, or hearing their excitement at all the beauty of the holiday season.  So while we write our lists, do our shopping, make our meals, I try to be mindful that all they want to do is have a good day.  In my mind, a “good day” means feeling loved, sharing a laugh, and having fun.  I would rather not get it all done, and instead put “doing” off for another day so we all enjoy the “living”.

So what does that look like in action?

The breathing and the flower essences mean that I turn down my volume.  When I get stressed, I get loud, and that only serves to scare our children.  That is definitely not what I want them to remember about the holiday season!!  Being mindful of my intention to “make memories” instead of “doing things” helps me to focus on the big picture of wanting the holidays to be full of peace and joy.  To me, this mindset is more in-line with the promise and the hope that was delivered in the manger in Bethlehem.

It also means we take time to read holiday stories, sing holiday songs, and make holiday cookies.  We choose to spend time with our children, each other as partners, and our family.  I think when most of us look back, what stands out is the time with our loved ones, not the gifts they gave us, or the meals that they cooked.  We strive to make the prep time as important as the actual event we are preparing for.

For us, this meant letting go of hosting two holiday parties every season.  We cut our guest list to make the one event we do host more meaningful.  Instead of staying up all night on Thanksgiving night, we hire someone to do our decorating now, and it gets done over a 3-4 day period.  That lets me sleep, which is a much better choice in the long run.  If we couldn’t afford to hire someone, we would do less.  We made that choice with our outside decorating – now we do our own lights, again over more time and with a less ambitious approach.  Less is more, right?  And, it is so fun to have our kiddos showcase “their” section of the yard they decorated.

As they get older, we invite the children to help inside the house as well, and they take ownership of that holiday tradition with pride.  We use artificial trees, which saves a tree.  We use them until they are “Charlie Brown” style to be mindful of the environmental cost of production.  Again, we are not striving for perfection.  To them, it is all wonderful and beautiful.  Letting them place ornaments and other decor where they can see them and enjoy them has become more important than having the perfect show house.

Another “natural” choice we make is to give edible gifts.  Again, the goal is to reduce “stuff”.  Here is a gift everyone enjoys, and food can be wrapped creatively without adding to the mounds of packaging that will be thrown out or recycled.  If we don’t make the treats ourselves, we shop local at a farmer’s market for yummy treats to give to teachers, friends, family, or as hostess gifts.

We also go “au natural” through the holidays by giving back.  Although we all enjoy giving gifts, we also incorporate a charity into every season.  This was a tradition started by our families that we are passing on to our children.  We read through the holiday gift catalog from organizations like Heifer International or World Vision.  We read about parts of the world where people do not live like we do, and the kiddos choose gifts from those catalogs to give to their grandparents, who are in a phase of life where they are paring down.  I think we will start doing this for them to choose gifts for each other as well – we are all toyed out over here!

How do you incorporate natural living into your family’s holiday season?

Bloggers, visit GrowingSlower to sign up to be a part of next month’s carnival.