Christmas Countdown Out of Whack

Well, I’m terrible at updating the countdown this year. But we have done all sorts of fun things.

Day 11: Pick out ornament for the tree (2012 was Cat in the Hat, 2013 was Tow Mater, 2014 is Minnie Mouse) This was the first year that Miss Punky picked out the ornament herself. Its going to be a very Merry Minnie Christmas. Literally. She has asked for only two things from Santa. Minnie Bike and Light Up Shoes. I have the bike in the works (her godfather is painting an old bike we had) and the light up shoes I got for her are Minnie Mouse and the bows and hearts light up. She’s going to love them.

From her moms so far I have gotten her a zebra print Minnie Mouse bath robe, because she’s so dramatic about being cold when she comes out of the tub and dries off. The small walk to her room or down the stairs in just a towel brings on the jitters and shivers. Its pretty darn adorable. I also found the cutest Minnie Mouse duffel bag for traveling and it comes with a sleeping bag. So when we go visit my family, she will have her own bag to take! Just like a big girl.

So – Minnie Mouse is the theme of this year.

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Day 12:Angel Tree and Senior Tree at Walmart. Walmart always sponsors children for Christmas. Kim and I have been picking stars off the tree for several years. This is the first time Miss Punky picked her own star. A 6 year old girl who wanted a baby doll and stroller. Miss Punky picked out the baby doll and I added the cheapest stroller(cause we aren’t made of money) to give to the little girl. Our bank sponsors seniors. I always try to take one of those as well. Punky picked a Grammy instead of a Papa and we bought their wish list item of art supplies.

I always feel bad that the paper ornaments with all the senior citizens on it are not usually touched. In fact, when I went to put the gift in the their collect box, there was trash inside of it, but no gifts. When we went back to Walmart the end day of the collection, there were still the same amount of ornaments on the tree. No one ever thinks of the senior citizens – at least that’s the way it looks. It’s pretty sad.

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Day 13: Kim’s grandfather’s union always has a Christmas Party and he gathers all his grandkids and great grandkids together for chili and nachos at 9am. We adults are getting to be a little less steel stomached for it. But they have Santa and pictures and lots of great things for the kids to do. Its a nice time normally. I didn’t get to attend, because with this midnight shift, I have been sleeping in late. So, I’m not in the family picture with Santa. But! Miss Punky is sitting on Santa’s lap! How exciting is that development?!

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Kim, Mrs. Claus, Santa, Uncle Eric, Punky, and Aunt Ashley

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I very small portion of the very large Italian family that I married into. They are all the grandkids and great-grandkids and their parents.

Day 14: We colored plastic ornament balls with sharpies for our neighbors and their kids as well as her godparents. She had fun just scribbling and it really added character to the gifts.

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Day 15: We filled the ornaments with hot chocolate and then delivered them to their new owners. They are lucky they got any marshmallows though, because she kept putting them in her mouth, instead of in the ornament!

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So that’s what we have been up to so far. I have also mailed all my Santa Letters this year. I dropped them in the mailbox to be picked up yesterday, so they are on their way to all the kids on the list. 140 of them this year!

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We have 9 days til Christmas. This has been the most interactive holiday with Punky – the one where she has participated, started to fully understand that this is a holiday, and really gotten into the spirit. I can’t wait to keep on making traditions with her!

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How to Teach A Toddler The Giving Spirit

Anyone figured that out yet?

I’ve been flaking on our envelopes. I know, I already smacked my own hand.

Anyway, yesterday’s envelope was about Giving to Others. Punky was to pick 5 of her toys to give to the thrift store so another kid would have a fun Christmas with those toys she doesn’t use or play with anymore.

If you want to participate in your own countdown, it’s never too late to start. Here are my cards. You are welcome to use them and share them if you like.

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Apparently, I can’t rotate the example cards. (There’s actually a full 24 at the link. Use what you like!)

 

Back to the Day 10 Giving to Others Cards.

What happened?

Tears. Lots and lots of crocodile tears. She walked to her room in literal panic mode as she headed to the firing squad of picking out five measly toys for her to give away. Head down, tears rolling, it looked like I was sending her off to the torture chamber.

This isn’t a new subject for her or for me as her Mommy. This Christmas season has been a lot about giving to others who are less fortunate, or have less love and material possessions in their life.

A few days ago, I was cleaning our room and going through the laundry. (I procrastinate a lot on the laundry) and I found a lot of clothes and shoes that don’t fit her anymore. Sad, I know. Seriously, when I give away her tiny clothes and upgrade to the big girl clothes, I’m so conflicted. She is getting to big for me!

Anyway, she was helping me fold and helping me sort the clothes into her clothes, dirty clothes or the new basket, “Cousin’s basket”. She has a girl cousin that lives in the area, visits frequently and happens to be younger and smaller than Punky. This is the first time that Punky has helped me with the weeding out of her belongings that don’t fit and aren’t worn anymore for her cousin. Let’s say she wasn’t very thrilled about it.

Literally, my kid (because I swear I am a retail therapy-aholic) doesn’t generally wear the same clothes more than once or twice, before she’s outgrown them or they get cleaned and they don’t fit anymore. AND, because she needs her own apartment for the amount of clothes and shoes she has. Its not all my fault. Her aunt works in a kids’ clothing store too, so she’s been getting clothes that way too. As well, her godparents have a thing with buying her all the cutest stuff for no real reason at all.

This doesn’t just mean clothes, she has more toys than she ever plays with. Case and Point: anyone else remember her birthday party?

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That’s what it looks like at Christmas too. And don’t get me wrong, I am so happy that my kiddo is so loved and so very very spoiled. But, a weeding out process is kind of a must!

So, needless to say, she has plenty of clothes and no need to keep the stuff she doesn’t fit in anymore. The concept however, has been super tough on her. Especially for her shoes. She got the cutest little light up shoes for her birthday last year and she loves them. However, she has outgrown them. Unfortunately, for all of us, because they are Sketcher’s Twinkle Toes and they are awesome. But, they went into the basket for her cousin to enjoy. Punky didn’t see it. (Maybe I was trying to be sneaky, avoiding the inevitable meltdown – don’t judge me! LOL)

Anyway, as fate would have it, her cousins came to visit the next day. I came home for lunch from work and found that her cousin was actually wearing Peyton’s brand new tennis shoes (she doesn’t have many of those actually) and I was concerned she might accidentally go home with them when I went back to work. So, I changed out those shoes for the light up shoes. One to appease the toddler who I was taking shoes from and to experiment with the giving idea with Punky again.

Of course, Kim said, “This is going to cause a problem.”

And I simply didn’t mind. Punky and I had already had a conversation about other things her cousin was getting. That we give away our clothes and shoes that don’t fit anymore and after many attempts to put her feet in some shoes (Cinderella step sister style) and with no success, she got the concept, I thought. Now, it was time to test the theory.

Her cousin was delighted when I showed her how the shoes lit up and how she could stomp around and make them light up. Punky came to see what the commotion was and realized very quickly that her favorite shoes were on another kids’ feet. It didn’t take long for the protest and the tears. We sat down again and had another talk. I told her that her cousin would love to play with the shoes she couldn’t wear anymore and she had to learn that Christmas wasn’t just about getting presents, but about giving presents as well. I suggested to Punky that she teach her cousin how they work. And, for a bit, that was fun. She was the big kid and she was teaching a little kid how to do something.

Of course, it didn’t last and her two year old brain just couldn’t handle the idea that her cousin was taking her favorite shoes home with her. But, it happened and I think the light up shoes are no longer on her brain, but it really brought the idea home to me again that we need to continue to instill in Punky the real spirit of Christmas.

As her moms believe the real spirit of Christmas is about giving and its about spending time with her family. She has lots and lots of family and family friends who love her and spoil the crap out of her and I don’t want to take that away from her, she’s a very lucky little girl – but I also don’t want that to overshadow the giving spirit. I want to nurture the idea of giving to other kids, to sharing her luck and love with other people, to be generous and kind; not just during the Christmas season, but all the time.

So, when we opened this envelope today and it said she was to go up to her room and pick out 5 toys to give to another child, we at tearful struggle and sad conversation about how, again she was a lucky little girl and not everyone got to have the things she had and she needed to help another kiddo have a good Christmas. She got hung up on all the things she didn’t want to give away. Her favorite doll Ellen, the Dreamlight my sister got her, her Minnie Mouse blanket.

To redirect her, I suggested things. Like the rocking horse she hasn’t played with for months. Its also too small for her, in reality. What did she do? Much like the shoe incident the other day, she tried it on.  She hopped right on that horse and said, “No, Mommy see. It still fits. Its not too small for me.”

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*Insert eyeroll here*

We still live with my in-laws, so technically all her toys are mixed in with the community toy room toys. Once she finally got the idea that we didn’t have to give away anything she didn’t want to give away, but she had to pick five things she could part with. She picked …. random toys that weren’t really hers to give away.

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I suppose its a step in the right direction, anyway. When we are in our own home next Christmas and she only has her toys to pick from, it won’t be as much of a surprise, because; like it or not, this will be a tradition she will participate in. I feel very strongly about it. Last year we picked all the toys we gave away – to make room for the gobs of toys we knew she was getting for Christmas from other family and friends. She wasn’t part of it. So this was the first year.

I’m not sure how to make this process less painful for her or to make her understand what she is doing is really a good thing, the right thing to do. She’s two, so I don’t have much of a high expectation, but its something I’m very passionate about and I’m sad she doesn’t go along with it, better. But, she’s two. I just have to keep telling myself – she’s two!

What traditions do you have this time of year? Anyone else trying without avail to instill that generous and giving spirit into your child this holiday?

I’d love to hear all the tips and tricks you have tried!

Day 18: Making Cookies With Mommy

So, let me preface this by saying, I’m not a baker and I don’t really cook. However, I really wanted one of our countdown days to incorporate a dear tradition from my childhood. One of my favorite memories, growing up, was going to my grandmother’s house and decorating cookies. Any way I wanted to! So, my brothers and sister would all gather around the table and smear icing and sprinkles all over the cookies.

I always told her I’d never get too old to decorate cookies. And, I meant it. I moved away and didn’t get to come back home for each year after I graduated, so I’m glad we got to start the tradition up again with Punky.

Again, I am not a baker, so making the dough from scratch, wasn’t going to happen. So, I got a package of pre-made dough – which is also very convenient after a long 8 hour day at work.

We laid out some wax paper and smooshed them into shapes with the cookie cutters.

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We put the cookies on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. I swear I cooked them exactly as the instructions on the package said to cook them. After the 12 minute wait, I opened the oven to a cookie blob. All the cookies had grown into each other, deflated, and made a giant cookie in the pan.

Oh well, I was disappointed, but Kim made a good point, it doesn’t matter, it’s still going to taste good. So, while I wanted to help her decorate little candy canes and snowmen and the million stars she cut out, I suppose, for the toddler, a cookie blob was probably a better idea anyway.

We smeared some icing on the top, shook sprinkles on it and threw the candy ones on top.

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While I wanted everything to be perfect, it won’t always be. So, I suppose I need to lighten up a bit and let the fun be what it is. I know she enjoyed munching on the sprinkles and licking her icing covered fingers. Maybe next year, when the shapes may be more intriguing to her, I can figure out how I managed to lose all the shapes – but for now, it was a pretty sweet success.

Day 16: Afternoon Out on the Town with Mommy

This was a bit of a spur of the moment thing. We were supposed to just go to Walmart and get a star off the Angel tree and come home. We will still do that later, but well, I decided to take Miss Punky off to the mall. It’s the first time she’s really been since she’s been so mobile.

Her Mama was taking a nap – so I thought, what better way to keep the house semi-quiet (I forgot to turn off the TV, so it didn’t work) than to get the toddler out of the house. The weather is pretty decent today and it was a nice little outing for just the two of us.

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I got her dressed first, in one of her many Christmas shirts. This one says, “Is it too late to be Good?” While I was getting myself ready, I looked over and she’s just chilling by the front door. When I pulled up the pictures to pick which ones to share, I noticed that she got the door with some chalk. Easy to clean up and according to Kim its been there for a bit. I never noticed!

Anyway, we went to the mall and wandered about. We went down to the play area first, because I wasn’t really sure where the Santa set was. One of my really great mom friends works over there and I was looking for her. While Punky played, I texted her to see where she was hiding Santa in the huge ass mall.

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While we waited for the return text, Punky saw the giant carousel and decided she must ride on it.

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I tried to put her on a horse first, but with all other horse like rides, she wasn’t having it. So we settled for nice little carriage seat for her to be buckled into, all nice and comfy.

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After our ride, we found out that my friend wasn’t working today, but she called ahead and told them to give me a photo package of my choice. How thoughtful she is! I’m so glad that while I didn’t really get much out of the mom’s group I was apart of, I met some really sweet ladies, like this one!

We  made our way to the Santa set, but Santa was taking a break. Instead of trying to wrangle the kid while we waited for 15 minutes for Santa to return, we took a short ride up the escalator to Build-a-Bear. Totally spur of the moment. But, what’s an outing with Mommy without a little money spent.

She picked out her ‘pony’ and we went to get it stuffed. I had to practically put her foot on the peddle the whole time, but we got it stuffed.

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We washed the pony and made a birth certificate and paid for it. No clothes or shoes were needed, she’s not even two. But, I am thinking this may need to be a tradition for Punky and I every year. I really enjoyed watching her pick out her toy and make it and then not let it go.

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We finally made it back to get a picture with Santa.

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She did well, but she did have a death grip on the pony. On the way out, we stopped for a Dora cookie for the road and Mommy needed a drink. We headed out to the car and she was content to hold onto her pony the whole way home.

It was one of the few times she fell asleep in the car. I hated to wake her!

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She’s currently sleeping off her fun filled afternoon and I am relaxing my feet! I think an afternoon with Mommy will have to be on the books for years to come! 🙂

Day 15: Christmas Goodies!

For the last few years, we have gotten together with Kim’s mom and the women of the family and made trays of Christmas goodies. Usually everyone brings a few recipes and we make them all up and then exchange them. We usually put together trays for work and other family members. This year, I had four trays of my own, Kim had two and then we had a small tin of our own for the house. 

Punky helped a little. 

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She started by sampling some cherry mash bars. Which, much to her Papa’s dismay, she didn’t really care for them. 

Then Mommy put her to work!

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When all was said and done, I gave her the spoon to lick, the best part of the baking experience. A mixture of Rice Crispies, powdered sugar and peanut butter is sure to smell delicious.

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And it tastes even better!

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This weekend, she’s had not much of a nap, and today is no exception. She’s been fairly decent though, since we have been home. She got M&M’s in her envelope today and of course, lots of Christmas goodies to eat throughout the week … that is … if Mommy doesn’t eat them all!

Day 12: Coloring Christmas Cards for Family

I woke up with a migraine today and called out sick to work. I’m still not feeling great, in that, my head still has a dull throb to it.

I stayed home with Punky and spent time hanging out quietly around the house. This afternoon, we opened her envelope for the day and it had a little tattoo inside and the idea for coloring Christmas Cards to send to our family members.

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It was the first time that she didn’t eat the crayons. Of course, the longer she was coloring the more she had to fight the urge to eat the crayons. She did eat a few of the tips off of them.

After a nap, we got up and started to set up the Christmas tree. I have been meaning to set it up for some time, so we finally got it put it. Punky did a lot of helping us with the putting it together. She was kind of fascinated with the branches.

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She got to put the star on the top of the tree as well.

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After getting the lights on, we found that some of the ornaments from last year were broken, so we figured we needed to get some more. Punky and I went out to Walmart for more. She picked out some cute purple ornaments, shatterproof, of course.

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She came home with a new baby. Typical of a shopping trip with Punky.

When we got home, she helped me put the ornaments on the tree, which really just consisted of her shoving the ornaments in between the branches and letting them fall to the floor. Shatterproof! Thank goodness.

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When the tree was put up, we wrapped her up in the left over garland. She marched and danced around the living room with garland falling to her feet.

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While I had a headache most of the day and my eyes and sinuses seem to be bothering me, I had a decent time with my little monster today!

Day Two: Christmas Movie with Moms

Day two of our Christmas Countdown was pretty uneventful. I got home from work around 6 after going shopping for during movie snacks like popcorn. We had a little dinner and then initiated the envelope fun.

Punky stood patiently waiting for the envelope and when I asked her to pull it off the ribbons, this time she didn’t have the patience for it. Likely for the best really, yesterday she spilled M&Ms on the floor.

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She immediately opened the envelope and dug out the candy. Tonight there were jelly beans in there. She was happy as a clam, she shoved them in her mouth, thus the face she is currently making.

IMG_2842I know she’s not yet two yet, so she doesn’t care about the cards, but I’m damn proud of them, so I am taking a picture with her holding each one this year! This one says “Watch a Christmas Movie”.

Now, I should preface this with the fact that we have never really sat down and had a family movie night with Punky. I never felt like she had the attention span for it. However, Kim had recorded the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie, the clay version and since it was something she always did as a kid, I wanted to make sure we incorporated it into Punky’s traditions.

So, we set up a bowl of cheese puffs, her sippy of milk and curled up on the bed with Mama.

The movie was about an hour, with the addition of commercials, so after fast forwarding, I’d say it’s 40 minutes or so. We got her to keep her attention through most of it. She sat very nicely through the first 15 minutes or so, she jumped on the bed through the next 15-20 minutes and then sat quietly for the last 10 minutes or so. I would say the night was a success!

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Day two was a hit, I think, we had a chance to snuggle up on the bed together, the three of us and hang out. It was a nice de-stressing moment after a very long, exhausting day for me at work.

OH! And we finally got our stolen money back from the bank. It took nearly two and a half weeks and we were penny pinching like mad, but we made it. It was stressful, but Day 2 of our Christmas Countdown ended on a high.

DIY – Christmas Countdown/Advent Calendar (Non-Religious) For Toddlers

I know, two posts in one day, but I’m just so damn proud of myself right now. I have been looking for a way to countdown the days until Christmas with Punky. However, I didn’t want to use one of the religious advent calendars that are geared towards the birth of Jesus or scriptures from the Bible.

This year, I just wanted to focus on activities that we can do as a family. Little things every day that we can do together, either in the house or out.

So, I made my own. I didn’t really want to buy one, I wanted it to be special to our family. And, we all know that I have an Etsy shop for digital design, so I hopped onto Photoshop and made up some cute little Christmas Countdown cards and took some fun ideas from Pinterest as well as from mine and Kim’s family traditions growing up.

I decided to do a step by step, in case someone wants to make their own. I think ours is definitely geared towards little ones. Small children or toddlers who may or may not yet understand the meaning of Christmas, but are small minds ready and willing to be molded. A great time to start teaching by example and forming great traditions for years to come!

Without further ado, here’s a tutorial for you! My very first ever DIY post on the interwebs!

Optional: All the cards and numbers I used in ours are here. Feel free to use them, though they are geared toward our location and our family specifically, most of them can be used for just about anyone.

What You Need: Scrapbook paper (8X8), ribbons, craft scissors, regular scissors, self laminating pouches, hole punch, tape/glue stick

Step 1:

IMG_2799I got some funky and pretty scrapbook paper that I wanted to turn into paper envelopes. I am working with a toddler here, so no need to get fancy with my envelopes. This was the simplest envelope tutorial I could find. And while they weren’t all uniform, it doesn’t matter, she’s not even two yet.

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Pick out the design you want

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Turn it design face down and at a diagonal angle.

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Fold the two corners in – so that they meet in the middle and tape the intersection.

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Fold the bottom section up to the intersection in the middle and tape both sides down.

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Fold the top section down to the middle intersection and crease the paper, but do not tape.

Make 24 little envelopes like this. You can use all the same colors or a color scheme. I just liked the random and the pretty.

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Step 2:

Cut out your numbers. I used fun craft scissors to spice up the edges, you can cut straight edges as well. Totally up to you. You can also simply write the numbers on the outside of the envelopes if you don’t want to download the numbers.

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Step 3:

Attach the number to the outside of the envelope. Make sure you tape it down or glue it down really well. Leave top flap open.

IMG_2809Step 4:

You can write your own activities, get on the computer and make up some cute cards like the ones in the download link or you can use the ones I have made and used. If you opt to make your own, I used a 4X2 dimension and that made it easy to fit in the envelopes. Either way, cut them out and get them ready to go.

IMG_2811Step 5:

You also don’t have to laminate, but since I’m working with a toddler, I really wanted a way to make the cards durable. So, I laminated and cut them out. TIP: If you haven’t ever used the self laminating pouches, make sure you leave room on either side of your card so you can cut them out. Also, don’t cut at the edge of the card, leave a small amount of laminate around the edges otherwise the backs will fall off!

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Step 6:

Put your cards in the envelopes. I tried to decide which day of the week and the dates of things. I wanted to make sure if we were going out somewhere, it was mostly on the weekend or if it was a night I had to work, we would be staying home to do things. Strategies are key in my life, I would assume for anyone with a toddler, the same would be the case. Anyway, my cards went into their envelope homes with very much planning behind it.

IMG_2813Step 7:

Hole punch a corner of the envelope. Be careful not to hole punch with the numbers upside down or hole punch through your cute little card.

IMG_2814Step 8:

String the envelopes onto a pretty ribbon. I just used a sparkly silver ribbon I had in my craft/party planning supplies. Nothing too fancy. I chose to string it from 24 down to 1, because I intended Punky to pull from the bottom. Make sure you decide which end you want to start on and work backwards when you string the envelopes.

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Tada! Beautiful, cheap and toddler proof countdown to Christmas. I plan to add a few little chocolate or candy treats in some of the envelopes, small toys and surprises as well. I know a laminated card with words on it, will not hold her attention, but if she gets a treat or a present every day, she is sure to be excited about her first ever Christmas Countdown Calendar.

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I hope to make it more festive in this corner later in the week!

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I’m pretty excited to see her open her first card. I hope doing things like this will instill in her the magic and the excitement kids have for Christmas. You know, some people don’t want to “lie to their kids” about Christmas and allow their children to believe in imaginary people (don’t get me started on the Christian reason for the season), but I say, why invite the stress and the worry. I love the idea of giving my kid an imaginative and magical holiday.

And what better way to do that than to spend time doing something fun and geared towards Christmas every day of December leading up to the holiday!