Let’s Go to the North Pole


Oh hey, Christmas friends. I’m drunk on cocoa and sugar high’in from marshmallows and cookies, but I’m here. In red plaid jammies if you must know.

We had our sixth annual North Pole Party this past weekend and, after editing all the pictures, I’m feelin’ the feels. Why is it that December brings out so many feels? It’s like a month long push on a bruise–the hurts are hurtier; the goods are goodier. We let those feelings come to the surface as they may in December, and we throw parties to celebrate all of it. Six years in now, this little North Pole party holds some nostalgia. It’s hard not to look out at the crowd of kids listening to the Christmas story and remember every one of them when they were in that same spot six years ago–chubbier cheeks and imaginations unshackled by all that the world tells them that is possible. At the same time, it is such a celebration of growth and change and a solid reminder to be grateful–all these kids, all these mamas, all these years. We’re healthy, we’ve grown in numbers, we’re bound by friendship and love.

So, here we go. Some holiday cheer for you–kids and jammies and Christmas and cookies.

Wait. Quick. Go make some cocoa. With marshmallows. I’ll wait.



Back? Now light a candle. And you’ll need some Christmas music, so I took the liberty of making you a playlist of our absolute favorites.

Click play.

Welcome to the North Pole.

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I am unwilling to try any other Christmas sugar cookie recipe because I can’t imagine this one being topped. It’s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook recipe (page 200 in mine–the page is all crusted with flour and falling out of my book). I roll out the dough pretty thick so that they’re soft and chewy, and I pull those feckers out of the oven when they are just barely brown around the edges. Our frosting might not be the smoothest/prettiest frosting, but it tastes so much better than the royal icing recipes I’ve seen that make picture perfect cookies. I don’t measure. I just soften a stick of butter, add a shit ton of powdered sugar, a teaspoon or so of vanilla and then enough milk to get the consistency I want. It sets enough to be able to stack cookies and yet your teeth can still sink into it.

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Also, I’d like to throw out a big Thank You to our hot cocoa bar for staining Dash’s brand new white Hanna Andersson jammies. Hoping Oxy Clean pulls through for me.

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We do an ornament station at the party, and I’ve found that these work great as a self-run craft station. Cover a table with butcher paper. Put all the supplies out. Write step-by-step directions on the paper. (porcelain ornaments, Michaels–as well as the minis, currently 70% off)

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These adorable hot cocoa ornaments (Target) were the take home treat and made the cutest garland.

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Brett sets up our beach tent in the front yard every year and strings Christmas lights all over it. We put blankets under it, and it makes the perfect gathering spot.

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I remember driving to the hospital, a week before I delivered Nella, to hold these these twin boys.

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Little finished ornament projects drying. Swoon.

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We do an outside scavenger hunt in the dark every year, but we switched it up a bit this year so it didn’t get too redundant. Two hundred candy canes were hidden along our street, and the kids ran with flashlights to find them all.

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My dad read a Christmas story to the kids again, and all I can think watching him is “You will remember this forever.”

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My favorite thing about this year? Nella fitting in. In past years, she’s kept her distance, often choosing to go read alone or hang with an adult away from the crowd. Not this year. Sister found her place. Ran with the kids on the scavenger hunt, weaseled through the crowd to get her cookies, sat with friends under the light tent, laughing and drinking it all in.

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So many times throughout the night, my dad, Brett and I all found each other and whispered, smiling, “Look at Nella. She’s so happy.”

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And that, my friends, is Christmas.

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Also, I should share that a kid gift exchange with 24 kids of different ages and genders is a shit show, and that I fail miserably at orchestrating it, but that’s half the fun. Because the adults all laugh amid the chaos and say, “This is a mess. We should never do this again.” But we do. And we will. Because tradition.

I love this night, I love these kids, I love these memories.

(Party aftermath…Dash grazing the leftovers).

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To see past years’ parties–North Pole Party Archives: 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

A Spooky Halloween Night


Happy Halloween! This is it, folks–the night of childhood dreams. Grab your brooms, light your candles, stock your candy. I love Halloween–but that’s obvious because holidays are my jam. To be honest, I think we all have a little something extra when it comes to chromosomal makeup, and we figure out what it is along the way. Mine definitely includes some kind of over-the-top enthusiasm for Halloween, but enough about me. IT’S HALLOWEEN!

This is the first year we did a Halloween party, and because I could not come up with anything more original, I called it SPOOKY PARTY but always said it dramatically and with a British accent and followed by a dracula laugh  (moo-ha-ha-ha-ha).

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I turned Lainey into a witch in this picture using Pic Monkey, and Brett’s dad printed it for me for some festive fireplace party decor.

When I went to Utah a few weeks ago, one of the moms was telling me all about the Halloween party she does every year, and I was so inspired, I stayed up in my hotel room googling Halloween-inspired food and ordered a fog machine. That’s how these things start. Whatever the case, we had so much fun. It even felt–dare I say–a little bit like a night at Hogwarts. Dash had his own sleepover with his grandma that night, so it ended up being a girls’ party. And the morning of, Lainey woke up early, came and found me and said, “Mom, I’m so excited I can’t sleep.”

Cue Harry Potter theme song, cue fog…

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We served a full dinner of Halloween-inspired food including a witch wart potion that smoked and bubbled all night (I’ll never do Halloween without dry ice again!).

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Turns out spaghetti is super easy to die black. Just cook pasta as usual, and then soak for about 3 minutes in a big Ziplock with a little bit of water and several drops of black food coloring.

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The bat bile was a mint mousse that turned out delicious–just heavy whipping cream, melted white chocolate, powdered sugar, and a little green food coloring and peppermint extract.

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As for decor, the  Target dollar spot was ON POINT this year–flasks and beakers and test tubes, graveyard stones and almost everything else we needed. Throw some inexpensive spiders and snakes in the mix, drape some spider web, blast a fog machine, and everything turns spookatacular.

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Radioactive bat poop favors (Nerds).

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The brain cupcakes were super simple to make, and I swear I don’t mean that in a Martha Stewart “it’s so easy, all you need is 10 professional pastry bag tips, a blow torch and 6 free hours” kind of way. It’s just two shades of pink frosting. You frost the dark layer on first, gently slice a knife to make two hemispheres, and then pipe the light pink frosting on with a big Ziplock bag. (also, not my idea–found these on Pinterest).

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Madame Zelda came to the party too and set up a fortune telling boot.

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And giggling little girls all in witch hats, eating around the table in a mist of fog and illuminated by candlelight? BE STILL MY HEART. Magic.

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The fortune telling ended up being a huge hit. They all lined up and took turns as Madame Zelda read a fortune fish for each girl (have you tried them? So much fun!), and then looked into the crystal ball to see their future. I made up fun tales for all of them and included some that Lainey had written for them earlier–like “Tonight you are going to do the Dab Dance with a skeleton.” It is pretty easy to make fourth grade girls giggle. I’m not sure we can pull that off in another couple of years, but it’s fun while it lasts.

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We got this $20 plasma ball to use for our crystal ball, and the kids loved it. It’s definitely something fun we’ll tuck away and pull out for parties again.

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Little Ivy was all big eyes and 100% belief for her reading. It was precious.

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A few of our Instagram stories from the night:

The girls also made witch balm for their lips, and everyone got to take home their own tin. It’s a great party activity, is pretty easy to make, and kids have so much fun creating their own flavor concoctions. We made the balm from this post–four simple ingredients, and it’s my favorite lip balm. I keep a tub of it in my kitchen cupboard, and it lasts me forever.

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And what’s a sleepover party without s’mores? Halloween style, using black widow egg sacs instead of marshmallows, of course ;o) We love our indoor s’mores maker.  It’s so much fun to have for sleepovers and cozy movie nights–or breakfast, har har. Speaking of sleepover, does anyone have any tips for how to get a bunch of girls to STOP TALKING AND GO TO SLEEP?! Brett kept coming out and asking me, “Aren’t you going to tell them to go to sleep?” And I was all, “I did. Five times.” YONO. (you’re only nine once)

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A few easy ways to transform a party into a witchy good time?

*Switch out light bulbs with green ones–found in the regular light bulb section and a cheap transformation.
*Buy dry ice! We got a huge chunk of it at Publix for $12, and popped pieces throughout the night into our witch potion punch which kept it bubbling and fogging all night. You can also drop a small chunk into individual glasses–better with bigger kids as you don’t want little ones touching the actual ice.
*Fog machine. You’ll use it every Halloween. Makes everything look spooky.
*A candleabra. It added the perfect Halloween touch to our table and made for a great centerpiece. Very Hogwarts. The more candles, the better.
*A spooky playlist. You can find a ton of Halloween playlists on Spotify, from Monster Mash to Thriller.

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And the best part? We get a whole ‘nother round of Halloween fun tonight. Grab your brooms, witches!

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And a favorite Halloween post from the archives: Our Storybook Halloween.

Have fun tonight!

Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts: A Pool Party Celebrating 9 Years


I introduced a friend to Parenthood for the first time last night–which feels a bit like leading someone to a secret island where there is buried treasure you know will change their life. As if the show isn’t already emotional in that ‘Parenthood will GUT you’ sense, we watched it together–me, on the night after celebrating my first born’s 9th birthday; her, stretched across my couch, her hands resting on a small hill of a belly where her first baby grows. For three hours (yeah baby, three episodes in a row), I felt turned-inside-out, more than usual, from the very thing that tied it all together in that moment–Parenthood, literally and figuratively. I was inclined to be the obnoxious person who keeps interrupting a good show with condescending explanations and commentary–“It’s really like that, just wait and see”; “Uuggh, this part makes me cry–I’ve so been there.”; “She loves her kid so much–can’t you just feel it?”–but I didn’t because no doubt my friend already feels it, and also I try hard not to be that girl. So I stayed quiet, instead calculating the fact that I have been a mother for a mere quarter of my life now, but cannot even remember what it’s like not to breathe love every moment of every day for someone that belongs to me–at least for a little while. Mother time weighs more than real time, so let’s just say I’ve loved this child for half my life.

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Over the past nine years, I’ve saved a few trinkets that define her current year, stashing them in a big bag in my closet with the hopes of one day, years from now, stumbling upon it–maybe with her as we pack her bags for college or gather up her things for her first home or search for treasures for grandbabies–and suddenly remembering, “Oh my God! Zhu-zhu pets! You loved these! Squinkies! You had 100 of them. Shopkins–Lainey they were your world!” She grows and graduates from small windows of her life–quicker than ever now–while I pause to reflect on how much joy that little phase brought us. From the butterfly rattle to the Elmo doll, through My Little Ponies and Fur Real Pets, to Rainbow Loom bracelets and Shopkins. These little loves are reflections of the big loves that will one day embrace her and carry her into the world–the studies, the places, the people, the passions. But for now there’s charm necklaces and sticker books, and swimming and crafts. She wanted the latter two to team up for her birthday party theme, so it was “Splish, Splash, Arts & Crafts” this year. A little from our 9 year celebration this past weekend…

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We set up three craft tables that didn’t require any mom help:

Design Your Own Water Bottle

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bulk neon sport water bottles, Sharpie oil-based paint pens

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Decorate a “Pool Tote”

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…and Make a “Pool Tile” Necklace

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I love using these “jello shot” containers for parties. They work great for making individualized kits for each kid. These had an assortment of glass beads, a pre-cut necklace cording and a clasp to tie once finished. Kids rotated stations on their own, and it was smooth sailing and mess free–just the way we like it.

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The big hits were the pool floats (pretzel pool float, pizza float)

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…and the money dive game. My dad brought a big bag of change and scattered it all over one end of the pool. We set the kids free to collect it all, and the top two amount winners won beach towels, and everyone got to keep their change. Winner strategy was definitely to go straight for the quarters.

Super easy and inexpensive party favors–dollar section packs of lipgloss; tuck one and a few pieces of candy in a little paper bag (Michael’s), seal with blue glitter washi tape and paint on some glitter waves.

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It’s our last single digit year…to many more charms on her necklace. xo

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