On Halloween and Pumpkins and being a Scrooge

I’m going to go ahead and lay it all out for you. I am not into Halloween this year. It can just pass on by for all I care, because I have put zero effort in. We haven’t bought costumes, we haven’t carved pumpkins and I’ve got one bag of candy corn to give out.

I’m like the Halloween version of Scrooge. BAH HUMBUG!

Every year, we carve pumpkins. I bake the seeds, we enjoy this very fall-like tradition, but this year? Not interested. Because you see, what really happens is this: Every year the children draw their faces on the pumpkins, then I spend the next two hours scooping the gunk and carving by myself.

This year I decided no. And the kids really haven’t seemed too disappointed, which has diminished my mom guilt only slightly. Now if you all could quit posting your amazing works of pumpkin art on Facebook that would really be helpful.

I did buy three small pumpkins and let them paint them, so I haven’t completely failed. In fact, bring me a friggin medal people!




Tia and Landon are digging costumes out of the costume chest. We have plenty to choose from and that suits them just fine. Sloan wanted to be a zombie or a vampire or something else equally boyish and “cool” but we put the kibosh on those things. I finally suggested he wear his David Freese jersey and a Cardinals hat and told him to go as David Freese.

He agreed.

I’m still waiting on my medal…



I want to move on past Halloween and into Thanksgiving and Christmas, though if I’m honest, I’m not overly ready for either of those holidays yet, either. The cooler weather this week has gotten me a little more in the holiday spirit, though. Scones and hot tea in the morning make me feel festive. I may have to start listening to Christmas music starting tomorrow to psych myself up for it all.

Micheal Buble Christmas? Yes, please.

So what about you? Are you in the holiday spirit?

Which holiday are you ready for?

Meet the newest American Girl

Comments are now closed. Winner will be announced tomorrow. Thanks everyone!

You would be hard pressed to find another toy company that has come up with a more creative and lucrative idea than that of the American Girl doll. Blending history with all things girly, they have the market on quality toys for little girls. I mean, really – they put Cabbage Patch Dolls to shame.

Those dolls grew in the ground and had yarn for hair. The ’80’s were a strange time, folks…

Had American Girl been around when I was little, I would have been wildly in love with the dolls. Instead, I am just wildly in love with them as an adult, and thankfully I get to share them with my own daughter and watch her imagination bloom as she plays and learns through their vastly rich historical stories.

Well done, American Girl. Well done.

The newest American Girl historical figure is Caroline Abbott whose story takes place near Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. From the American Girl press release:

“Living with her family in Sacket Harbor, New York, Caroline loves sailing with her shipbuilder father, and she even dreams of captaining her own ship one day. But after British sailors capture her father and cousin, Caroline does her best to keep the promise she makes to her father to stay steady and ride storms through the better weather. In the end, Caroline finds – and proves – her own steadiness and strength as she navigates the challenges of wartime.”

Caroline launches with six historical books written by author and social historian Kathleen Ernst and they follow Caroline’s adventures through this rich moment in American history.

“Our newest historical character, Caroline, is a brave, independent girl who teaches girls today that they can navigate life’s challenges by staying strong, making good decisions, and taking action,” says Jean McKenzie, executive vice president of American Girl. “We know our fans will be inspired by the stories of Caroline, who shows girls that they can set their own course to help make changes for the future.”

With Christmas quickly approaching (I know, WHAT?!), Caroline Abbott would make a great addition to your American Girl’s collection. She has an array of historically accurate clothes and accessories that represent her time period and the books are sure to enthrall your daughters as they learn more about our country in a way that interests them.

Today, thanks to American Girl, I have the privilege of offering one lucky reader Caroline Abbott’s six book box set. You can share with your daughter (or granddaughter, or niece, or cousin, or neighbor, or sister-in-law’s Aunt’s second cousin’s daughter…) these fun and lively tales that bring American history to life in a way that they can all love and understand.

There are three ways to enter:


Leave a comment. Any comment will do.

– Send out a Tweet letting people know about the giveaway and come back and leave a second comment letting me know you tweeted and you will earn a second entry.

– Post this giveaway to Facebook and come back and leave a third comment, letting me know and you will receive a third entry.

This contest is open to US Residents only and will end on Monday, September 10, when I draw a random name from the list of comments. You will have twenty-four hours to respond to the email telling you you’ve won. If you do not respond, I will choose another winner. The winner will receive the box set directly from American Girl.

Ready to enter?




Oh, and please…have a lovely Tuesday. It’s September people! SEPTEMBER! Which can only mean one thing…pumpkin spice lattes and (hopefully soon for us Floridians) scarves and boots. That’s enough to make me unendingly happy today…

disclaimer: I am working in conjunction with American Girl to promote the launch of their new historical doll and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I received the Caroline Abbott doll in exchange for writing this post. I was not compensated.

From our family to yours

I pray you all had a lovely, wonderful Christmas filled with joy, laughter and maybe even a bit of silliness. Thanks for taking a journey with me this last year. We’ve covered a lot of ground and so many of you have walked us through this season of change. Seriously…thank you.

I bid you all drive forward in your minivans, proudly entering this new year with your heads held high and your back seats clean.

Here’s to another year of crazy!

When Life Gives You Lemons

Make Lemonade, right?

Or in our case, when Target gives you a Gingerbread House that refuses to stay together…

Eat it.

While our annual Gingerbread House construction did not go quite as planned, we did partake in what I can only hope will be a new tradition over the weekend when we attended the boat parade in Clearwater.

The perks to living minutes from the ocean keep adding up.

It was even chilly enough to necessitate the wearing of the coats for the first time!  It felt downright Christmasy…


Our friends, Mike and Carol, joined us on the water.  One year ago at this time we were all sledding down the hill in their back yard.  Now we congregate at the beach, instead.  It’s so good to have familiar faces nearby.

So how about you?  What traditions, new and old, are you enjoying this holiday season?

Just me and my thoughts

The title of this post alone should scare you all.  I am welcoming you into my thoughts?


Because the truth is, I can go from thinking of something super brilliant and kinda deep to thinking up alternate lyrics to popular songs in the same breath.  “So, Kelli.  What ARE your favorite made up alternate lyrics?” I’m so glad you asked!

Sung to the tune of Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s “Rock Your Body”

I’m gonna wash your body

Make it clean

Scrub with me

No lie, I sang this to the kids every time I bathed them and they ALL sing it now when they pick up a bar of soap.  It. is. awesome.

So yeah…that’s the kind of stuff that floats through my head.

Okaaaaay, then.  Let’s bring this crazy train on in to the station, shall we?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas these last few weeks.  I’m wrestling through my desire to teach my kids to really, truly embrace the power of this Christmas season without completely turning away from the magic of gift giving and receiving.  There have been a lot of really wonderful blog posts written lately on the topic and I’m awed at how many people have given up gifts altogether on Christmas, choosing instead to focus on the true meaning behind why we celebrate this holiday.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not there and I’m okay with that.

Because I really love the moment my children walk around the corner and see the twinkling lights and the gifts and the excitement leading up to that magical moment.  And I think we can still enjoy that tradition without losing ourselves to the marketing mayhem that Christmas has become.

Truthfully, the last few years we have pulled back significantly on how much “stuff” we give our kids.  Because they don’t need all the stuff.  Last year we gave fewer gifts and tried to make them more meaningful and useful.  And we are pulling back even more drastically this year.

There are other things we plan to do with the kids this year to keep the focus of Christmas outward and not inward.  And I may or may not share what those things are.  I am trying to keep some things private as a way to preserve the traditions, memories and even acts themselves as sacred between us, our children and the God we serve.  It’s a balance.

I can tell you this, though.  As the kids and I discussed the way that Christmas would change a bit this year, I mentioned today that we would be spending less on one another and more on others.  I was immediately met with disappointed stares and protests and for a brief second, my heart sank.  Perhaps we had gone wrong all these years if my children were going to pitch a small fit over receiving fewer toys.  Then Tia spoke.

“But Mom,” she said, her eyes big and round.  “I really, really wanted to get you a special present this year!”

“Yeah, me too,” Sloan said.  “I had a plan for exactly what I wanted to get you.”

*tears*  *hugs*

Then I promised them a pony.

I thanked them for thinking of me and not themselves and told them I would be honored to receive gifts from them, but that I wanted them to spend more time, energy and money on gifts for people who are in need than on me.


Our nativity scene usually includes Santa, Luke Skywalker, Moses, a Construction Worker and on occasion C-3PO likes to make an appearance.

I won’t tell my children they can’t buy me a gift.  (I think they’re going to buy me Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer – Mercy, I am loved).  I will, however, encourage them to think outside the box on how we can give to others.  I loved some of the ideas in this post – particularly the suggestion of giving children a sum of money and allowing them to use it however they want, as long as it’s for someone in need.

I am not opposed to giving gifts at Christmas, personally.  It’s not something that I feel we need to cut out entirely.  I am, however, finding myself more and more drawn to celebrating more simply, with the traditions surrounding the gifts and not the other way around.  I don’t have a problem with my kids believing in Santa because we don’t make him the reason for the season.  I don’t play the Santa card to encite good behavior (mortifying) and I read the story of the real Saint Nicholas every single year so that they know and understand the historical significance of who he was.  Santa gets a bit part in our the Christmas celebrations in our home.  And I don’t mind that.

These are things that I, personally, don’t sweat.  Because I don’t let them get out of hand. I am, however, pondering and thinking and praying over exactly how Christmas will look for us this year – how we will incorporate gift giving and receiving into our holiday in a way that is meaningful and precious.  Rest assured, though, that no matter what, Christmas will still be magical and filled with wonder.  How could it not be so?

The Lord is Come.

Magical, indeed.

How do you keep your focus during the holidays? Any plans to help your kids think outside the box this year? I’d love to hear what others are doing!

A Little Pre-Holiday Cheer from Shutterfly

Comments are now closed. Winners have been chosen and will be notified tomorrow when I can think clearly. Right now I must sleep. Thanks everyone!

So Christmas is around the corner.  I’m not sure if you were aware or not.  Maybe the Santa Clause standing next to the Grim Reaper tipped you off?

At any rate, this is the time of year when we all begin to prepare for the holidays.  Despite the fact that I keep up with most everyone I know online, one of my favorite traditions remains: Christmas Cards.

I love receiving them and I love sending them, despite the hassle of addressing labels.  So imagine my delight when Shutterfly contacted me and asked if I would promote their holiday line of Christmas cards.  In exchange, I will receive some free cards and I have the great opportunity to offer three of my readers 25 free cards!

I browsed through Shutterfly’s selection of cards and I was more than thrilled with the broad array they have to offer.  There are tons of beautiful selections where you can add anywhere from one to six photos plus a customized greeting.  In addition to the cards, you can also do a bit of Christmas shopping through Shutterfly.  They have some wonderful personalized gifts that would be perfect for the adoring grandparents in your lives!

So, here’s how to enter to win 25 Holiday Cards from Shutterfly:

– Visit the Shutterfly website and browse through their holiday collection. Then leave me a comment and tell me one of your favorite Christmas memories.  (Or you could just leave me a comment that says I wanna win! Either way is fine – but I’d love to hear Christmas memories…)

You can earn more entries by doing the following:

– Tweet about this contest and leave me a second comment telling me you tweeted.  It could say something like, I’m a Twit who Tweeted! or more simply you could just leave a comment that says Tweet!

– Link to this contest on Facebook and come back and tell me that you did so and earn a potential third entry.

– You can also send me an email saying you would like to be entered if you’re not the commenting type.  My email address is kellistuart00 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

I will choose the three winners via random.org on October 30.

Disclaimer: This is a promotion sponsored by Shutterfly.  In return I received free holiday cards of my choosing.  I was not paid for this post.  All opinions expressed are my own.

My post-Christmas brain

I’m feeling the need for a bloggy break.  I simply can’t think of anything to write about these days.  Oh sure, there’s the fact that I’m going on 3 weeks of being sick and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the black lung, but that’s not a blog worthy topic.  My house looks like Christmas vomited all over it and I simply don’t have the energy to do much about it, but I’m sure you all feel the same way.

Nope.  I simply don’t have a decent blog post in me.  I am enjoying this post-holiday break, laying low, coughing up my one remaining lung, playing games with the kids, watching the “plays” they put on each morning for me and watching FRIENDS at night with my equally sick hubby.  We got the last four seasons for Christmas and have been laughing down memory lane every night before swigging Nyquil straight from the bottle and falling into bed.  Uaully only to be woken by Landon one or four times throughout the night…

So all that to say, I’m sorry but it’s going to be slim pickings here this week.  I need my holiday brain to regain a bit of function.  I did write up a review this morning at STL Family Life for a Build-a-Bear giveaway.  Hop on over and enter to win, if you please.  Or just read about the hilarious experience I had in the store making my bear…

Okay, I need to go.  There are wails coming from the basement and Tia just walked by, dragging one of the kitchen stools with her to the back of the house.  That’s never a good sign. 

So in the words of my seven year old who is too cool for school – “Peace out, Yo!”

The one with all the Christmas photos

It was an idyllic Christmas in the Stuart home, complete with a winter wonderland outside.  We enjoyed a long, relaxing weekend and are now all refreshed, rejuvinated and…well, the kids are already tired of each other as evidenced by the fact that they’ve been sent to different rooms and it’s only 7:45.

Whatcha gonna do?

By order of the decree of Mom Bloggers United, I am contractually obligated to share a few Christmas photos with you.  If I don’t, I could be voted off the island.  We wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we?  And so, without further ado, I give you Christmas 2010.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

When did this child turn into a little girl?!

When did this child turn into a little girl?!

A rare moment

A rare moment



Santa came and left behind a new bike for Sloan (which he declared was tubular!), a CD player for Tia and a Jessie doll for Landon to complete his set of Toy Story toys.  Santa ate most of the cookies (they left him a plate-full for cryin’ out loud) and he apparently tripped over the fireplace grate.  But all in all, Santa did a magnificent job this year.

Landon's baseball helmut, which has hardly left his head since Christmas morning. He looks like the Jack in the Box kid running around here.

Landon's baseball helmet, which has hardly left his head since Christmas morning. He looks like the Jack in the Box kid running around here.


If any of you have school age boys and you don’t have Snap Circuits, I highly recommend them.  They’re great!  It teaches the kids about energy and electricity while letting them build and create.  If the circuits are snapped together correctly they can make a fan blow, a whistle ring or a song play.  It’s seriously hours of fun.  I’m so glad we invested in these. (Hint: You can get them at Hobby Lobby.  Print off their 40% off coupon online and you get them for much cheaper.)


Tia received her first American Girl doll, which is apparently a rite of passage for little girls these days.  I’m just old enough to have missed the American Girl phase.  When I was a kid it was Cabbage Patch dolls.  I gotta say…these dolls are cooler.  Tia got Kit and she came with purple glasses and a set of matching pajamas.

I wasn’t sure how my tomboy of a daughter would react.  Would she like it?  Would she cast it aside? 

She loves this doll.  It has brought out the girly girl inside her.  I kind of love it.

All in all, it was a wonderful day for everyone.  We didn’t go overboard on gifts, which means the kids only got things they really wanted.  My parents bought us a rockin’ new video camera, which I’m thrilled about because we’ve had our old camera for ten years, which means in video camera years it was, like, 429.  It wasn’t even worth it for me to drag it out most of the time.

But the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme, came about mid morning when my parents gave us the most creative gift I believe we’ve ever received.

Do you hear the angels singing?

Do you hear the angels singing?

When we were in Italy, Lee and I passed several Gelateria’s with these huge cans of Nutella in the window.  We commented more than once how we wished we could bring one of those home.  We never mentioned that to my mom, but somehow she managed to track down a shop in New Jersey that sold these 12 pound jars of heaven.

60,000 calories.

My New Years resolution to lose 10 pounds is going to be a little bit tricky…

While Christmas was easy and happy for us, our sister-in-law, Becke’, and her family had a traumatic and terrifying Christmas.  Her younger brother, on his way to her parents house for Christmas morning, hit a patch of ice on a bridge and rolled several times.  He ended up with a shattered femur, a broken wrist and some serious head injuries.

They almost lost him.

Thankfully, he will ultimately be okay, but he is in for some grueling months of rehab.  This accident came as they near the third anniversary of Becke’s younger sister Kiley’s death.  Needless to say, Christmas was not as idyllic for that precious family.  Would you join me in praying for them?  Particularly her brother Kirby.

Follow Becke’s blog for updates and specific prayer requests.  And to be blessed.  Becke has a heart for the Lord and a gift with words.  You will be blessed by her blog.

There.  I have officially fulfilled my Mom Bloggers United obligation.  I can keep my member card for one more year.  Phew.  Merry after Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours – Merry Christmas.  What a joy it has been to share our 2010 with you.  God Bless and I pray tomorrow is a blessed day for all of you!

Lee-Kelli 10 (2)-14

And for my Russian and Ukrainian friends: 

Zhelayu vam schalivovo Rozhdestvo!  c Novim Godom!

Celebrating Christmas

For three or four years now I’ve determined that I would throw a Christmas party for the kids.  I usually come up with the idea around December 24.  Because I’m that awesome.

This year, I determined somewhere around August 25 that I would actually, indeed, for real, throw a Christmas party for the kids.  I planned ahead…in my mind.  In reality, I sent invitations out somewhere around December 12, a whole thirteen days before Christmas. 

I am growing as an organizer.  Try not to be jealous…

If I’m being honest (and I am) I would have to tell you that most of the invitations were sent via email.  The rest were hand delivered.  No stamps.  I don’t believe in them.

So with all of my awesome forethought and planning, I wasn’t entirely sure we would have a large turnout.  But, to my surprise, we did!  And despite the fact that I’ve had a severe bronchial infection (most likely pneumonia – you know…no biggie) I managed to put together a decent enough gathering of children.

Read: M & M’s in a crystal bowl and cake.  I mean nothing was handmade or anything.  Let’s not get crazy, right?

I did print out the story of the Candy Cane and made a cake.  With Betty Crocker’s help.  It was the kids that made this party a delight.  They played, they laughed, they ran and then?  They sat and listened.  And this is where the simplicity of the party was key.  The totally planned simplicity…


They sat and listened as Papa Lee read of Christ’s birth from the book of Matthew.  They raised their hands and answered questions about the manger, the Magi and the wise men.  They discussed why we celebrate Christmas and how we can honor Jesus on His birthday.


Lee did a great job.  He kept it short and sweet but packed in a beautiful lesson.  I was proud of him, and of the kids who managed to sit still and quiet and intent the entire time.


Another reason I was proud?  The kids went above and beyond in giving.  We asked everyone to bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to charity and these families took that seriously.  They purchased wonderful toys, which we will deliver this week.  And as we talked of what Jesus did while He was living on this earth, we stressed to the kids how Jesus gave to others who were in need and how we can do the same.

The sweet hearted children that sat in my living room embraced giving and it brings tears to my eyes to think of their tender, moldable little hearts.  What they gave will be used to bless others.  And it took minimal effort on my part. 

An email and a slice of cake.  Who says we can’t change the world?