Bringing Baby to the Beach

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias

Summertime has arrived here in Hawaii and we are finding ourselves at the beach more than ever.

Yes, even with a newborn.

For a little while, our tradition of surfing on Thursday nights with friends was the only beach time we were fitting in each week but as the temperatures are rising we have been trading in our park days for beach days and squeezing in weekend trips too.

Weekend beach time is extra sweet because Alex gets to come with us.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. Packing up (what feels like) the entire house, loading it – and the kids – into the van, unloading it at the beach, setting up camp, tearing down camp, bringing it all back to the van, washing off the kids, dressing the kids, taking care of the wet, sandy stuff at home (tired yet?).

But it is SO worth it.

I love watching Lyla and Simon’s confidence in the water grow. Alex took Simon out on his surfboard for the first time this week – how cool is that?

I love the quiet time that I get with Etta Rae as I sit with her in the shade.

I love seeing the smiles on the faces of my family and hearing them laugh.

I love watching Lyla and Simon play. They sit in the sand together and make “soup”. They chase birds and each other. They play peek-a-boo with their baby sister. They just have fun.

So much goodness.

I know a lot of you mamas out there will have fresh babes this summer and the thought of bringing them to the beach/pool/any body of water is daunting. Especially if you have older children too. But, mama, you can do it! Whether you are taking them solo or will have extra hands around to help, here are my “must have” items for bringing baby to the beach…

  1. Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) for the kids. My number one concern when taking the kids to the beach is safety. The first thing that I do when we get to the beach is put a Puddle Jumper® life jacket on Lyla and Simon. They both know not to go in/near the water without an adult but having them wear their Puddle Jumper® life jacket gives me peace of mind while I set up our camp. We started using the Puddle Jumper® life jacket with Lyla last summer and recently went back to Target to get Simon his own. The kids love them because they are easy to put on (just slide their arms through and clip the adjustable buckle in the back), they are comfortable (the woven polyester material makes them softer and prevents chafing) and they totally give them confidence in the water.  I love them because they have been approved by the US Coast Guard as a PFD and they have antimicrobial properties built in to resist odor causing bacteria from building up (yuck!).
  2. Designated space for baby. A playard works great at the beach because it offers you a solid surface to put baby down that is away from curious, sandy fingers. We bring a fitted crib sheet to put over the top to keep bugs and sand out and give an extra layer of sun protection.
  3. Water and snacks. Our kids (OK, fine – me too) love to snack at the beach. Taking a nice snack break in between playing and swimming usually buys us more beach time. I try to pack a healthy variety into a bunch of small containers so that if a wet, sandy hand finds its way inside we don’t lose it all.
  4. Baby powder. Even if you rinse your kids off in the ocean or the beach shower and physically carry them straight to the car, they will somehow find a way to cover themselves in sand from head to toe. To make sure you leave the beach at the beach – and to save your car from becoming a crazy, sandy mess – put some baby powder wherever the sand is stuck to your kids and it will brush right off. Seriously, magic.
  5. Water resistant blanket. If your kids are anything like mine, they will constantly be bringing you sand “ice cream cones” and treasures that they find in the water. Having a water resistant blanket helps keep your butt comfy and makes it easier to brush the sand away too 😉
  6. Re-sealable plastic bag. I make sure to have a few of these in different sizes. The sandwich size is perfect for keeping my phone safe. The gallon size makes a great diaper pail.
  7. Sun protection. Duh, right? Make sure you have sunblock and don’t forget to reapply!!
  8. Camera. Point and shoot, iPhone, DSLR, Polaroid – whatever you use, use it! Make sure to capture these special moments with your family.
  9. Baby blankets. Lots and lots of baby blankets. Because inevitably, the blankets are going to get wet/sandy/spilled on/etc. and you don’t want to wrap up baby in a dirty blanket.
  10. A giant beach bag. One big enough to throw everything inside.

If you want to pick up a Puddle Jumper® life jacket for your child this summer, you can find them at Target! They fit children 30-50 pounds and have lots of fun designs for kids.

What is your “must have” item for a trip to the beach?

 

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Preparing For Date Night After Baby

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FormulaForHappiness #GerberTarget #CollectiveBias

We are nine months into this whole “two kids” thing and Alex and I are totally due for a date night. I think that dating your spouse is so important, especially after having kids, but it’s hard. There are a lot of moving parts to figure out. The three biggest obstacles I find are time, sitters and letting go.

TIME || As your family grows, the amount of time that you have to spend with your spouse shrinks. It takes some serious effort to carve out a few hours amid the never-ending cycle of mealtimes, chores, laundry mountains (yes, mountains – piles are a thing of the past) and bedtime routines.

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^ us on our last date night before Auntie left for the mainland

SITTERS || Once you finally find the time, you have to find a sitter. While we don’t live near any immediate family, we are lucky enough to live on the same island as my auntie and uncle. They are so great, and the kids love spending time with them. My auntie has been on the mainland since late April so we have been sitter-less so far this summer and it has really made me realize how hard it is to find someone to watch your babies – you can’t leave them with just anyone!

LETTING GO || Found time and a sitter? Awesome. The rest is easy, right? WRONG. Leaving your baby for the first (OK, and the second. And maybe the third…always?!) time is hard on a mama’s heart and takes some major mental preparation. No matter how badly I need the break, or how much I am looking forward to alone time with Alex, I still have a hard time leaving our babies.

One of my biggest worries is feeding Simon. He has started on solid food (boy loves to eat) but still gets a majority of his daily calories from breastfeeding. I have a hate-hate relationship with the breast pump so I really haven’t used it this time around. No pump = no frozen supply = no breastmilk bottles for Simon.

We’ve started using Gerber® Good Start® Stage 1 Gentle for Supplementing Infant Formula for those times when Simon needs to take a bottle. The formula is designed to supplement breastmilk which makes it easy on his tummy. It is made for tiny tummies (birth to 12 months). It’s made with no GMOs which also puts my mind at ease. Gerber has made this change across all of their formulas, and now  offer non-GMO products to moms with a wide variety of needs—those who want the base product, those who supplement with breast milk, those with babies who need a soy formula, those who have babies with tolerance issues, etc. We send a bottle with him when he goes to the nursery at church and he has no troubles with it.

Knowing that he is happy supplementing with a bottle from time to time is a huge relief for me and makes the idea of leaving him with a sitter a lot easier.

Once you’ve jumped the hurdles of finding time, arranging a sitter and figuring out how to let go of some of the control, all that’s left is to enjoy your date. OK, and maybe kiss your babies cheeks a few hundred times before walking out the door. Am I the only one that does this?!

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Gerber Good Start Target

Gerber sent us samples but I also stocked up at Target. You can find Gerber® Good Start® formulas in the baby section at Target. Here is a great Cartwheel offer good from 9/4- 9/17. 

When did you go on your first date after baby? What is your favorite date night activity? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

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DIY Floral Step Stool

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PottyTrainTogether #CollectiveBias

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Here at the Byrd house it’s potty training time. We have great days and we have…well…not so great days. It’s definitely a learning process for all parties involved. Luckily, Lyla has been pretty enthusiastic by the whole thing, especially once she realized that “big” girls get to wear Pull-Ups® Cool & Learn® Training Pants with princesses on them. 

Like a lot of little girls, Lyla is enthralled by all things princess. If she had it her way, she would never take off her dresses or crown so, like any good mom would, I use it to my advantage when I need her to do something 😉

Need to do her hair? I ask her to sit still while I make her hair just like [insert favorite princess of the week here].

Want her to eat a few more bites of dinner? Tell her that meatloaf is food fit for a princess. 

Girlfriend is motivated. 

So, with potty training, I’m using the same tactics. 

On a recent trip to Walmart, I picked up a package of Pull-Ups with Disney’s Princess Sophia on them. Lyla oohed and aahed  at them in the cart, in the car and when we got home. (I told you, she loves princesses). To build excitement, I didn’t let her open them on the first day, but kept talking them up – letting her know that we would open them when she was ready to use the big girl potty.

The Pull-Ups® Cool & Learn® Training Pants have a built-in cooling system that helps teach kids when they are wet. They also have easy-open sides for when you need to help with the changing. 

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Of course, a big part of potty training is learning what to do after you go. You know, the whole flushing and washing your hands thing. So to make that special for her too, I decided to make a floral step stool fit for a princess. 

Back at Walmart, I picked up a plastic step stool and some faux flowers. I love getting my flowers from there because they are so affordable. Less expensive = I can buy more and really make a statement. 

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Lyla was pretty excited to see this step stool come to life so she happily helped me remove all of the flowers from the stems and we collected them into one big pile. 

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Since hot glue and toddlers do not mix (safety first, y’all) Alex kept her entertained with some highly sophisticated hand-puppet action while I got to work on gluing the flowers to the stool. 

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When I was done, my trusty assistant helped me clean up all of the extra flowers while we let the glue dry. Then, we were off to the bathroom to give it a try!

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Find out which type of potty training character your child is at this link. Lyla is definitely a squirrel so I think our approach of making the potty and hand-washing routine a princess game for her is going to work really well. 

Wish us luck!

Ready to start on your potty training adventure? Use this coupon at Walmart for $2 off any package of Pull-Ups (or GoodNights) at Walmart from 8/28- 10/8.

 

 

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Celebrate National Strawberry Shortcake Day at Macy’s Ala Moana

Summer is here! Ok, maybe not officially but the temperatures and our upcoming travel plans sure have me feeling as if it is.

One of my absolute favorite summer traditions is attending the Strawberry Festival in my grandparent’s small town. Three days of crafts, parades, and wholesome fun make for a happy mama. Oh, and all the strawberry shortcakes that you can eat don’t hurt either 😉

I’m still about a month away from stuffing my face with my favorite small town strawberry shortcakes so, to hold me over, I decided to make my own version of the iconic summer dish. 

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I’m not always a fan of a really sponge-y cake that gets soggy once you add toppings, so when making strawberry shortcakes at home, I prefer to use a biscuit as the base. This time, I started with a chocolate biscuit (cut into star shapes for a little extra flair), added a layer of juicy, ripe strawberries and topped with a drizzle of my homemade marshmallow whipped cream. 

YUM

Tuesday, June 14th is National Strawberry Shortcake Day and this year I’ll be celebrating with Macy’s. Across the country, local chefs will be visiting select Macy’s locations and demonstrating how to build their perfect version of this American classic. Sounds fun, right?!

If you are on O’ahu, come join me at Macy’s Ala Moana! The event is free and the demonstration begins at 2PM. Not in Honolulu? Check here for an event near you. (While the Honolulu event does not require an RSVP, some do – make sure to check early and reserve your spot!)

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If you can’t find an event near you, make sure to check out this recipe for “The Most Amazing Strawberry Shortcake You’ll Ever Make” by Johnny Iuzzini, award-winning pastry chef and member of Macy’s Culinary Council. Shoot – even if you can attend one of the events, make this recipe. Slow roasted strawberries with a vanilla-creme chantilly?! I’m drooling…

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This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Macy’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

How do YOU like your strawberry shortcake?

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White Chocolate Popcorn Mix #MakeItAMovieNight

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeItAMovieNight #CollectiveBias

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I don’t know about you, but I am not ready for the holiday weekend to end. For both Christmas and the New Year, we didn’t make any grand plans and just stayed home enjoying each other’s company. It’s been perfect. 

Of course, we have missed our family that are spread out throughout the country, but I have sincerely been enjoying all of the quiet (and not so quiet) moments that we are getting to spend together.

Not having any plans to leave the house (with the exception of Christmas Eve church service) has allowed us to really slow down and soak each other in. I’ve gotten a lot of one-on-one time with both Lyla and Simon which is so great but I haven’t had as much time with just Alex as I hoped for. 

I know, a lack of alone time with your spouse it’s kind of par for the course when you have a newborn but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of times I find myself missing my husband. With Simon still being so young, it’s not very realistic for us to head out for date night just quite yet so we have to find ways to bring date night home and one of the easiest ways to do that is with a movie night. 

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One of my favorite parts about seeing a movie in the theater is grabbing treats from the concession stand. I always get a big bag of buttery popcorn and pour a box of M&M’S® Chocolate Candies right inside. The sweet/salty combo hits the spot for me every time. Pair that with an ice cold Coca-Cola and I’m in movie theatre snack heaven. 

Luckily, my favorite movie night snack is easy to recreate at home. In fact, for this date night treat, I kicked it up a notch and added some white chocolate, pretzels and mini marshmallows to the mix – can’t do that at the theater 😉

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You can watch me make the mix here or follow the step-by-step instructions below.

To make sure your white chocolate popcorn mix is extra delicious, make sure to use Orville Redenbacher Movie Theater Popcorn and MARS Milk Chocolate and Peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies. P.S. have you seen the new little canisters they come in? Perfect size for the cup holder in your car/stroller #mommysnewbestfriend

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Once you have your treats prepared, you are all set to watch the movie. Now, just because we don’t have time to go to the movies doesn’t mean that we don’t watch movies. In fact, I watch the same animated children’s movie pretty much everyday (thanks, Lyla). So, for our movie nights I like to watch something a little more adult, or at least with real people in it 😉

The movie War Room has been on my radar since our church started promoting it in their bookstore. The film is all about the power of prayer and how it can transform the lives of individuals and families. The story follows a woman who is experiencing marital troubles and is introduced to the idea of creating a “war room” as a place to offer up all of her troubles and worries to God through prayer. It’s a story that is uplifting and inspiring – perfect for movie night with my husband.

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There is an awesome deal happening at Walmart now to help you throw a fun and exciting (and delicious!) movie night of your own. If you purchase all four of the movie night products that I have used above (Orville Redenbacher 6 pack Movie Theater Popcorn, MARS Milk Chocolate and Peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies, Coca-Cola 6-pack, 1/2-liter and the War Room Movie) and upload a photo of your receipt here, you will receive a $10 VUDU movie code via email (while supplies last, limit 1 per person)

TIP: take a photo of this URL now so you remember it later – all receipts have to be uploaded by February 9, 2016!

Pretty sweet deal, right?! Make sure you stop by here to check out more fun movie night ideas for you and your family.  

Have you seen War Room? I would love to hear what you thought about it in the comments below. Let me know what your favorite movie theater treat is too!

White Chocolate and Candy Popcorn Mix
A delicious snack, perfect for movie night!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 bag Orville Redenbacher Movie Theater Popcorn
  2. MARS Milk Chocolate and Peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies
  3. 1 cup mini marshmallows
  4. 1 cup white chocolate chips
  5. 1 cup pretzels
Instructions
  1. Pop popcorn according to instructions on bag, pour into large bowl
  2. Add M&M’S® Chocolate Candies, marshmallows and pretzels to bowl
  3. In separate bowl, melt white chocolate chips in microwave. Stir after every 30 seconds to prevent burning
  4. Pour melted chocolate over snack mix and stir immediately
  5. Allow mix to cool
  6. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
  1. Serve with an ice-cold Coca-Cola for an extra delicious treat 🙂
BRINGING UP BYRDS http://www.natashabyrd.com/
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Daily Wellness Reminders

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BeHealthyForEveryPartofLife #CollectiveBias

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I don’t know about you, but I often find myself getting pulled in a million different directions this time of year. My mind is constantly running through my never ending to-do list which is exhausting so, in an attempt to free my mind of some of the clutter, I created a daily wellness reminder sheet to keep on my fridge. 

The sheet helps me visualize the four main roles in my life (wife, mom, friend and self) and highlights some of the ways that I can stay on top of my wellness game for each of them which frees me up for playdates and date nights.

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Building and maintaining friendships is so important for your overall wellness yet one of the hardest things for me to do. I’ll be the first to admit that I get so wrapped up in taking care of my family that I tend to do things like forget to respond to text messages in a timely fashion, failing to give my friends the time and attention that they deserve. (sorry, friends)

This is something that I definitely want to improve on and I plan on doing by focusing on staying in touch both online, through snail mail and in person.  

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As a mama, it is so easy to neglect self-care. I’m not talking about the basics like brushing your teeth and washing your hair (although, some days if I get my teeth brushed before noon it feels like quite the accomplishment), but about taking time to make sure your spirit is happy. It may not get to happen daily, but I love when I have a few quiet minutes to just sit down and dive into a devotion. 

Another way that I can take better care of myself is by, well, taking better care of myself. I know, it sounds like a no-brainer but a lot of times I find myself so busy taking care of everyone else that things like taking my vitamins and taking care of my skin slip my mind which is why I love having these reminders on my wellness checklist. 

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I recently picked up some Emergen-C to help me pack in the Vitamin C that I know I am lacking. It’s quick, easy, and delicious plus it helps me with my daily water intake. I love when I can kill two birds with one stone. Cheers to more healthy days, more healthy nights!

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The dictionary defines mom as “one’s mother” which is so simple it’s almost comical. I tried again and looked up mother and was told that it is “a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.”

HA. Yes, they are both accurate, but we all know that there is a lot more that falls into the mom category. My definition of the word would include a few more things. Things like mess cleaner, food preparer, tantrum soother, boo-boo kisser, mess cleaner, laundry doer, mess cleaner and ummm mess cleaner. 

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I’ve been working on allowing myself some grace in this category because, try as I might, I am not – and never will be – super mom. There are always things that are going to fall through the cracks (graham cracker crumbs, I’m looking at you) but I do try to focus on a few things that help me feel like a better mom. 
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It’s so important to me that Alex and I provide an example of a healthy, loving relationship for our children and I work hard to keep up my end of the bargain. Lucky for me, Alex makes it easy and I love being his wife.

One of the best things, I think, that we can do for our marriage is to keep dating each other. 

Our dates don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be enjoyed. Just yesterday, we picked up donuts on the way home from church and had a donut date while Lyla napped and it was perfect. But as much as I love our at-home dates, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house, just the two of us. 

On the off-chance that we have planned a date that involves leaving the house without baby, and have gone through the trouble of setting up a sitter, I want to make sure that we are feeling our best so that we don’t have to cancel.

In a perfect world, nothing would interrupt date night but sometimes a long day at work (or long day with a busy, nap-skipping toddler) can bring with them pesky headaches and/or muscle aches that make enjoying your date night a little more challenging. If you find this happening to you, I suggest keeping an Advil Tablet Vial in your purse or glove compartment of your car – that way you have easy access while out and about. You don’t have to worry about it working either because it’s full of the original round tablets that have been providing safe, effective pain relief for over 25 years. 

While on our dates, I always try to listen intently. As a mom, it’s sometimes hard for me to push back thoughts of how things are going back at the house and give my full attention to my husband but I know that it is super important and it’s a skill I continue to work on. 

And, since all good dates end with a kiss, I make sure that my lips stay soft and kissable. I’m a total sucker for good lip balm and ChapStick Total Hydration does not disappoint. I love that it’s 100% natural and instantly smoothes and moisturizes my lips. 

By focusing on my overall wellness in each of these categories, rather than hard specifics, I feel like I am an overall healthier person. 

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I found all of my wellness products on my last trip to Walmart. What are some of your date night essentials? How do you keep on top of your overall wellness? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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** I created the images above using free clip art from Angie Makes 

 

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DIY Thanksgiving Wreath

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HappyThanksGathering #CollectiveBias

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I love Thanksgiving. The food, the traditions, the nostalgia – all of it. It’s the perfect kick-off to the busy holiday season and something that I look forward to every year.

Since getting married four years ago, I have been telling my husband that I can’t wait to host Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, between not having a big enough space and our traveling to see other family, I haven’t had my chance yet.

This year, I will be much too pregnant to travel off-island and we have a home large enough to host family and friends so it looks like I’m finally getting my chance!

To say that I am excited is an understatement but I’m trying hard not to go overboard with the planning and preparation.

My main goal when doing any kind of hosting is comfort. No matter how great your kitchen and decorating skills are, your guests will eventually forget what you served them to eat, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why creating an authentically warm, relaxing, and comfortable environment is key.

I feel most at peace in my own home when things are tidied up. I know that my guests will feed off of my energy, so I will be spending some time sprucing up the main living areas of our home before the big day to make sure that I am able to relax.  The last time I was at Walmart, I picked up a few of my clean-house essentials: Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel, Scrubbing Bubbles® Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner and Windex® Original Glass Wipes. (Bonus: there is an awesome rebate going on right now which saves you $5 on your holiday photos)

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Cleaning up the house, especially when you have a meal to plan/cook is a big job but with the right cleaning products and some holiday tunes turned up nice and loud it’s a big, fun job.

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^My brother kindly demonstrating how easy and fun cleaning the bathroom with the Windex® Original Glass Wipes is. Isn’t he the best?

After the house is clean, and before I get to cooking, I’ll make sure that our house is decorated festively for the occasion with some traditional items and a special Thanksgiving wreath.

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We all know to expect the “what are you thankful for” activity at the Thanksgiving dinner table but none of us likes to be put on the spot, right? I know I don’t. I think this is especially true when sitting around the table with strangers or a new group of people. (think your first Thanksgiving with your significant other’s family or maybe a group of your parent’s colleagues) but also applies to those dining with family and loved ones that they see all of the time.

Even though I have SO much to be thankful for, and love spending time reflecting on them, my naturally introverted self sometimes cringes at situations like these. To combat that awkwardness, and to make sure that all of my guests feel comfortable this Thanksgiving, I created this wreath that we will incorporate during dinner time.

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The wreath is already hanging above our piano. Underneath, I have a box with pre-cut “thanks” circles and some pieces of leather cord. The idea is that from now until Thanksgiving, anyone who comes into my house can write down what they are thankful for and tie it onto the wreath. Guests who are here only for the day will have their opportunity to write down what they are thankful for while they are mingling and waiting for our meal.

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During dinner, I will remove all of the circles from the wreath, divide them equally amongst our guests and we will take turns reading off what we are all thankful for. Of course, anybody can share more if they are so inclined but I believe that by having this anonymous way of sharing what we are thankful for will ensure that all of my guests feel comfortable, welcomed and pressure-free.

Sounds great, right? If you want to make a Thanksgiving wreath of your own, please feel free to download this free printable which gives you twelve “thanks” circles per page. Once you have the circles printed and cut out, punch a single hole into the top of the circle, cut some string and lay those items out with some pens.

I have so much to be thankful for this year – our wreath is going to be pretty full by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. I’m looking forward to it! That and, of course, the food. You can find more #HappyThanksgathering inspiration here. 

 

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